Category Archives: Health Care

Vigilance, My Constant Companion

Standard
Vigilance, My Constant Companion

Well hello blog friends. I’ve been pretty quiet since I got back from the hospital 12 days ago. Don’t let that fool you, my thoughts have taken on a squirrelish  pattern, darting between cars on a 6 lane highway during rush hour.

Hard to know how successful the surgery was at this point. The surgeon proclaimed it “perfect” so I’m counting on that to be accurate. My zombie arm has improved greatly – now I’m afraid of accidentally undoing all the good the surgery did. Plus I have weird sensations in other areas. Hoping it’s just my nerves coming down from some fairly traumatic events.

Recovery from surgery is a strange place to be in mentally. I expected the physical pitfalls – pain, medication issues, potential blood clots, physical restrictions, general discomfort and overall ickiness. I was not fully prepared for the anxiety, mood swings and FFS tears (who am I).

Before I give you a glimpse into my particular rabbit hole of recovery I need to first state the obvious…I’m very fortunate. I am relatively young and healthy. My recovery is projected to be months and isn’t terminal. The surgery I had was to correct a problem and prevent further damage. It was to relieve the chronic, relatively short term pain (months, not years) I experienced and hopefully prevent further damage.

This isn’t terminal cancer or some chronic debilitating disease that I have to manage for however much time I have left on this planet. I am mindful of this and deeply grateful. I also recognize that the fickle finger of fate has the option to change her mind at any point, even the best strategic plans and intentions can implode at any moment. I’m aware of the transient nature of life and my blessings are abundant.

Some things I have observed about myself…

I’m pretty much a rule player. Sure I may wax poetic about what a rebel I am but when the rubber meets the road, I’m a by the book gal. I want to follow discharge directions to the letter, sadly the letter is fuzzy.

Having more questions and curiosity than the discharge papers accounted for, I took to Google to quench my thirst for knowledge. Probably not ideal. There is a wide range of opposing opinions by medical professionals in regard to Anterior Cervical Discectomy & Fusion.

To brace or not to brace? Collar or no collar? Movement or none? When can I drive? When can I safely load the bottom rack of the dishwasher or put a fitted sheet on the bed? I feel safe pouring dry kibble into the dog food bowl but filling the water bowl seems like risky business. These are the activities that stump me daily.

I’ve already contacted the surgeon’s office about a potential blood clot and difficulty swallowing (which to be fair, are valid concerns and warranted calls) I draw the line when asking about specific mundane household chores. I see the surgeon next week for my first follow up visit since my surgery, I’m making a list.

I’m afraid of breaking myself. My biggest hurdle right now is the mental bandwidth I’ve handed over to fear of botching this surgery. Some is valid, some is unlikely. I find myself in a place of fear more often than I anticipated. It takes months, perhaps up to a year for bones to fuse. During this time of healing I will need to be mindful of what I do and do not do physically. Which activities are considered high risk and should be avoided? Vigilance will be my constant companion for the foreseeable future.

Some people don’t appreciate gruesome neck scars. I was able to drive yesterday for the first time since the surgery. My first errands out included dropping the kids off at school and getting some thank you gifts for my friends. My scar is supposed to air out so I didn’t cover it. There was a definite look of disgust on one clerks face when I came back into the store to borrow a pen. Her exact words were – “Take this pen, we have 100 of them. Now get out.”

Do you have a surgical recovery story? Any pro tips? Feel free to comment with your words of wisdom.

 

 

Fixed It

Standard
Fixed It

Well hello my blogging friends. I am happy to report that I got through my ACDF with all parts in tact and a few extra…two discs replaced using a combo of my bone and donor bone and a nifty titanium plate with 6 or 8 screws. I feel frickan’ fantastic and I’m not high right now. Got out of surgery a little over 24 hours ago and I am amazed at how good I feel. I suspect there will be some pitfalls along the way but wow what a difference. My right arm is my arm again, not some alien appendage that causes me pain 24/7. I forgot how good it feels to not feel bad all the time. It’s like a rebirth. Anyway, that stuff is nice but boring so let’s get on to the funny stuff before I go night-night.

The hubs and I got caught in traffic on the way to the surgery check in. The traffic was so bad I grabbed my backpack and walked the remaining 4 blocks. I did that to get there on time only to encounter an empty desk upon arrival. That was unsettling but I had faith in the surgeon so I didn’t walk out the door. The vacancy lasted long enough for me to call a general service number to confirm the room number, yup I was at the right place. So much for my efforts for being on time. I just got seated in registration when the hubs came through the door.

After about half an hour I was sent to hospital purgatory. It’s a holding pen before you get to the specialized OR area. This was a fun place. It was set up like an ER with curtains for privacy between beds. The first lady took basic information when she asked me my weight I told the hubs to cover his ears. She said I could whisper it to her, so I did. He said she’s probably lying and sonofabee I was but only by like 2 or 3 pounds and I rounded down so shoot me.

Anyway, I happened to get my period that morning because WTF not. I am 51 years old folks this should be in the rear view mirror and yet here we are…I mention this to another nurse who had the task of rubbing me down with antiseptic cloths (this would be the worst porn scene ever). Anyway I mentioned the menses to my new friend and she gave me mesh underwear and a sanitary pad that could double as a mattress. It was YUGE. I kind of felt bad for the pad, there was no way it was going to live up to it’s potential. I’m at the trickle stage this pad was worthy of postpartum tide. Oh and on one trip to the bathroom part of my gown went into the bowl so I had to explain that mess and get a new gown, at least I entertained the staff.

It was clear that I had at least an hour to go or so in purgatory so I encouraged the hubs to go get something to eat. He was already on Yelp looking for options, he didn’t fight me when I made the suggestion. Mind you it was noon and I didn’t  have anything to eat or drink since Midnight. I would have given my still tingling zombie arm for a coffee at that point. Half an hour after the hubs leaves…

Me: If you send me food pics I will cut you.

Hubs: I literally had my finger on the send button,

Me: Get yo fine azz back here…it’s moving day.

Half an hour later I was sent to OR prep and he was sent somewhere else, a waiting room.

Hubs: I miss u

Hubs: OK, just remembered u don’t have ur phone, so I’m talking to myself.

Once I got settled into my room I sent him home to be with our kids. My friend Kristy dropped by to bring them dinner – a chicken parm sub and a Brooklyn Pizza from our favorite local place.  I also got soup from Lisa, my Rocky Horror partner. And Amy just went full on ridiculous she made soup, cookies, orzo salad and salmon….oh and my friend Iris made me a spectacular chicken soup with matzo balls and magic. I am blessed beyond measure friends. I hope you all have people like this in your life.

Anyway back to the hospital stay. People joke all the time that hospitals are no place to rest and damn that is so true. I had a roommate Joan, 83 years old. She was in so much pain they had to take her for an MRI to see what was going on. Her surgery was way more complicated than mine and I felt guilty for feeling so good. We chatted a good chunk of the night because neither one of us could sleep, too much beeping, plugs coming undone, the compression sock alarm that nearly gave me a heart attack. Every time I needed to pee I had to be untethered by a nurse, it was an ordeal.

IMG_9979.jpg

Rare pic of me wasted.

The lab lady came in at 4am to take blood as if that’s a normal thing…we can’t wait until 8am for this? My surgeon came by for a visit at 5:57am, he must sleep 4 hours a night, max. I was glad to see him though he said the surgery went “perfect” and I believed him because my arm was feeling awesome. I got to shake his hand and thank him and ask weird questions about bone grafts. I won’t bore you with those details let’s just say I have some cadaver parts and I’m totally cool with that. I plan to donate my body to science when I die so perhaps I will be able to return the favor.

So in-between the chats with Joan, vitals being checked, alarms going off and the 4am Vampire – the man across the hall from my room threw several tantrums throughout the night. I heard him being abusive to staff, screaming without regard for any of the other patients and just all out acting like an enraged toddler, it was ridiculous. He was at least 20 years younger than Joan who was in extreme pain and was pleasant with everyone she came in contact with – this guy was the opposite. Needless to say I didn’t sleep much.

I got discharged at 11am and I walked out the door, no wheelchair. First stop was a Starbucks to supplement the tepid weak coffee I got with breakfast. There was a lot of food for breakfast, I only ate the grits (Paul I’m sure you would make better grits). Got a Chai and walked the three blocks to the car, it felt good to be outside. Things were going pretty good, until they weren’t.

About 20 minutes into a 45 minute drive I had to vomit. Told the hubs to pull over, he didn’t. Instead he handed me a Mutt Mit (dog poop bag) and I used that, tied the bag to avoid spills and repeated the process two more times. The fact that he had the foresight to think of this raised his stock considerably. We handled that like champs all the while doing 60MPH headed home like we practiced it. Now I’m waiting for my neck to be sore from that mess so tomorrow may be a rough day.

Anyway, it’s been smooth sailing since then. Fingers crossed we stay the course.

 

 

The Oh Sh*t List!

Standard
The Oh Sh*t List!

Hello friends, I haven’t posted because things have been kind of icky and who wants to read that mess. For those that have been following along my neck surgery is next week. I went for all the pre-op tests yesterday so it feels real at this point. I haven’t been stoic about this situation but I’ve tried to keep the public bitching to a minimum. I’m struggling a bit, I suspect some of my emotions are to be expected. I don’t know if I’ve learned anything through this process but I have made some observations along the way…

I have really good friends. I’m putting together an “Oh Sh*t List” – this will house the names and phone numbers of people that have offered to drive, feed and/or shelter my kids while I’m in the hospital and during recovery. These are people that mean what they say and say what they mean…they will show up if needed. Some of them will show up even if they don’t get a call. I hope you all have friends like this in your lives, I am profoundly grateful for mine.

It isn’t just about meal prep and Muber (Moms that Uber for free) some friends are just there when you need them. Last Saturday I texted a friend around 5pm and asked her if she wanted to go see a local production of Rocky Horror at 9pm. My daughter bailed and I didn’t push it because I thought it might be inappropriate (spoiler: it was COMPLETELY inappropriate).

Me: Any chance you want to go to Rocky Horror tonight?

Lisa: Daughter Bail?

Me: Yup

Lisa: Sure. What are we wearing? Sedate Janets or wild Rockys?

Me: I don’t think I have the wardrobe for either. I can probably put together a party goer outfit…black pants/jacket, shiny shirt (maybe) and an obscene amount of makeup. What have you got?

Lisa: Corset, high heel boots, red wig?

Me: Of course! I need a wig.

An hour goes by as I frantically search through the Halloween boxes looking for anything that will pass for Rocky Horror fabulous. What I find is Thing 1 & Thing 2 toddler costumes which makes me want to smile-cry and sends me to my bedroom closet which leads to…wardrobe disappointment. I did manage to find a cool jacket I purchased in Turino, Italy in 1996 and a hat I wore last year when I went to a party as Captain Obvious.

Me: I look more steampunk middle-aged hooker than Rocky Horror party-goer.

Lisa: Sends me a picture of herself looking fabulous in a zebra inspired pimp hat, gorgeous long deep purple velvet jacket, red wig, corset and boots for days. Too much?

Me: Hells no you look awesome! I put eye shadow on with a Q-tip. I’m not fit to be in your presence.

We had a great time at the show!

 

IMG_9944

Another observation…your family will squeeze every drop out of you until you make them stop.

Yesterday I had to drive to Philly for my pre-admission testing. The drive wasn’t bad and I managed to score street parking which is a bargain. I walked 4 blocks to the first appointment (Cardiologist) then had to get to the remainder of my appointments another 4 blocks away. Naturally it was raining and did I mention I woke up at 2:30 that morning just for giggles. So I was tired, cranky and in considerable pain. I find it ridiculous that people need to jump through these physical hoops for medical procedures to fix an orthopedic issue. The other patients I encountered yesterday were in tremendous pain and having to navigate city blocks and multiple buildings was a lot for their worn out broken bodies. Seemed like an unnecessary obstacle course – put it all in one building preferably on the same floor, oh and GET OFF MY LAWN (just threw that in because I sound like a grumpy old lady).

lawn.jpg

Any way after 5 hours of that nonsense I was looking forward to a nap cuddled up with my heating pad. I just got my self nestled in when I hear footsteps approaching my bedroom door…next thing I know my mother is barging into my bedroom.

Mom: Your husband told me you were resting. How are you, are you OK?

Me: I’m in agony mom, I just want to nap. I’ve been up since 2:30 this morning, long day.

Mom: Oh so it hurts, huh.

Me: Yes, yes it does. Is there something you need?

She then rattles off two things that she needs which causes me to get out of bed and go downstairs. I gave my husband strict instructions to lock all the doors from now on and set the alarm.

Naturally Rob and Laura are concerned about me and wondered how they would manage while I’m out. Super woman friend, Vickie, saved the day. She met the family and shadowed me one day this week on outings. Rob & Laura will be well cared for in my absence.

So my – Oh Shit List – is filling me with gratitude. The people I encounter in real life and my cyber friends have been very supportive. Seriously, you need these types of friends in your life.

Fingers Crossed…

Standard
Fingers Crossed…

Muthafuckah. Got some not great news today…for my regulars you may recall a post from last week when I waxed poetic about my crappy health insurance. I begged my doctor’s office for a script for an MRI but they declined because my insurance (sucks) needed me to go through more hoops first because they’re assholes.

I figured an x-ray would be useless because the pain I have seems nerve related. Pins and needles, like when your foot falls asleep. The foot thing usually passes after a few minutes, the situation I’m dealing with is 24/7.  The pain ranges from a 3 to an 8, it’s never gone completely. I’ve had about six weeks of this now and I’m starting to get cranky. However, the insurance company needs a checklist ticked off before it will pay for an MRI so basically we ALL work for the insurance company now – the doctors, medical billers, patients, hospitals, labs – they own us.

Anyway the planets aligned and I got the referrals, made the appointment, and saw the doctor. The appointment was with a non-surgical Orthopedic at the Rothman Institute. The office ran like a well-oiled machine. They even took an x-ray of my neck for $20. which is the best deal I’ve gotten since well, ever. My PCP wouldn’t send me for an X-Ray because she’s scared of my insurance.

The x-ray didn’t show much (shocking) so I got my script for the MRI. The RI office staff managed to get an authorization code from my cheap ass (yet freakishly expensive) insurance company so I got my MRI a few days ago. This morning I got a call around 9:15am from an unknown number so I let it go to voicemail. It was the Orthopedic doctor. Well, that was unexpected. I called the office told them I would be available after 12:30. I got another call from the doctor at 12:32, this is highly unusual. Doctors calling as soon as they get the results to discuss it with you…

Doc: Hello, I wanted to let you know I got the MRI and it isn’t terrible.

Me: (nervous laughter) Great, not terrible is good, maybe.

Doc: We compared this MRI to the one you had in 2010 and the same area is involved (cervical).

Me: I’m glad you were able to hunt that down.

Doc: I’m recommending that you see a surgeon.

Me: Oh.

Doc: There’s some compression around the spine and some fluid. (barely audible) Myelomalacia

Me: Mya-what?

Doc: Myelomalacia, don’t Google it.

Me: Of course I’m going to Google it, you just told me not to.

He then proceeded to name some doctors that are spinal surgeons. I got off the phone and promptly cried for 45 seconds. Then I started Googling, then I took a walk because I can’t do anything else. He told me to hold off on physical therapy until I see the surgeon. Oddly enough I had a physical therapy consult scheduled for this afternoon.

I talked to my husband, I talked to a friend, I talked to God and my dog. I made the appointment for Monday which is a miracle in itself. Hopefully, I’ll have more information and the start of a game plan this time next week.

I put my gym membership on hold. That was when it hit me, shit got real. Exercise has been a physical and mental release for me for 30 years. Now I have restricted exercise (walking) and constant pain, it’s not an ideal combination. I’m trying to not think about it too much until my next appointment, easier said than done. Fingers crossed…

 

It’s All About the Money Honey

Standard
It’s All About the Money Honey

This week has been a painful reminder of how incredibly messed up healthcare is in America. I’ve had an annoying issue that’s been shadowing me for about a month – near constant tingling/numbness in my right arm. I waited a couple of weeks to see a doctor because I thought it might resolve on it’s own, it hasn’t. So I made an appointment and saw my doc – she put me on steroids to see if inflammation was the cause.

I was a little freaked out to take the steroids because I’ve heard some rough stuff but it was a low dose for six days so I tried it. Nothing miraculous happened, the pain and numbness were dulled a bit but not gone. A day after my last dose I had extreme pain so I called the doctors office asking for next steps. No one called me back. I called the next day and got Honied and Sweetied by the nurse.

Nurse: Hold on hon, let me check….(hears keyboard clicking…)

Me: The pain is fairly significant and it’s constant, can we possibly streamline this process?

Nurse: Well Sweetie your doctor is giving you a referral to the Rothman Institute.

Me: OK, will I have a diagnostic test done before then to pin point the problem?

Nurse: No Honey. Go to the Orthopedic doctor first.

So I call the Orthopedic doctor. I’m fortunate they have a cancellation so I don’t have to wait a month or more to get in. The intake person tells me I will see a non-surgical doctor and asks me if I have had any x-rays or an MRI. I call back my doctor’s office…

Me: Can I get an MRI or some other diagnostic testing prior to the Orthopedic appointment so it is a more productive appointment?

Nurse: Pffffft. I doubt it.

Me: Can you ask?

Nurse: (Clearly annoyed) This is what your doctor has suggested.

Me: Yes, I understand that. I’m just in a lot of discomfort and I want to streamline the process if at all possible.

Nurse: (sighs loudly) I’ll put a note in for the doctor.

Next day…nurse calls we play phone tag 4 times before we connect then the call gets disconnected….

Nurse: Doctor says your other option is 4 to 8 weeks of physical therapy, then reconsider MRI, otherwise, insurance likely won’t cover.

Me: So physical therapy for a problem that hasn’t been properly diagnosed yet because an accurate diagnostic test hasn’t been done because the insurance won’t pay….I’ll stick with the Orthopedic referral, thanks.

Once again the death of common sense has been verified. I am nothing but a walking widget to these people…another name in the computer that stumbled off the factory floor and had the nerve to ask relevant questions. I’m sure this nurse started her career with the sincere desire to help people, now she is relegated to towing the corporate line for a variety of insurance companies. The doctor may sign her paychecks but they all work for the insurers now and it’s been that way a long time. This is the insurance we pay $20K in premiums for each year because my husband and I are both self-employed.

In other news, I went for a consultation for a cosmetic procedure today – blepharoplasty (under eye bags). Met with the doctor, scheduled the procedure and poof have an appointment for early November. Easy Peasy!

What’s the difference here folks, cash. The almighty dollar y’all so if you are willing to pay cash you can get your tummy tucked, boobs/eyes/ass lifted, nipped, tucked and fat sucked with barely any questions asked.  GAWD forbid you have a real problem then you will jump through hoops of fire to get the coverage you actually paid for, healthcare in America, it’s just swell.

 

hoops fire.jpg

Actual photo of me trying to get the healthcare coverage I already bought. (Pssst, not really I got the image form Pinterest)