Relaxation

 

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Photo taken by me at Boiler Bay in May 2017

I’m making this brief since I can barely think right now. I’m calling my doctor’s office and seeing if I can move my appointment from the 30th up to (hopefully) today. If not today to ASAP. The pain in my legs has increased to the point where it woke me up at 2:30 AM. I’ll update this post later with what I learn from the doctor.

Wish me luck!

Update – Well, I was told to go to the urgent care clinic because the computer systems were down. That was a waste of time. They told me I needed to see my primary care doctor. So I staggered to the reception desk (Tims had to support me because of how much pain I’m in) and got the first available appointment – which is tomorrow morning at 8:45 AM with a check in at 8:30 AM. At least it’s better than 8/30/17 at 9 AM, which is when I was originally scheduled. I’ll do another post as soon as I know what my doctor suggests. Continue watching this space for further updates.

Update 2 – The doctor increased my Gabapentin. I’ve been taking it for a couple days now. The pain is lessening but I’m not happy with the side effects. I’m lightheaded and disoriented all day. I take them every 8 hours and I take them three times a day 4:30 AM, 12:30 PM, and 8:30 PM. Since I was already taking my usual meds at 4:30 and 8:30, that wasn’t too hard. But the 12:30 one was. I ended up having to set an alarm on my phone to keep myself from forgetting. I’m hoping to be well enough by Monday 8/28/17 (this is actually Sunday…I haven’t updated because I wasn’t feeling too good on Friday and Saturday) to take over my usual cooking duties. Which would be great, since we need more bread.

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Adapting to life

Random Ramblings #2 – The Health Episode

Hi everyone. You may have noticed I missed yesterday’s post. That was mostly because of the eclipse here in the US. I was excited for that and really wasn’t paying attention to anything else. I was also dealing with another issue, one mentioned in the YouTube video I linked above. It’s my second vlog episode, and one where I actually break down. I don’t do that often in anything public, least of all something that’s on the internet. But I felt it was important to get out my message, and that’s part of it.

What’s so important that I had to say it when I was so emotional? I went to the ER for a screaming headache and the fact that my legs felt like someone poured gasoline (petrol for those of you not in the US) on them and lit them on fire. They were so much on fire I wanted to scream. They still are. The Nurse Practitioner treated the migraine but really didn’t say much about my legs other than that the pain was most likely a “form of neuropathy.” When I talked to my primary care doctor, she agreed with the assessment. When I talked to my vascular surgeon he agreed with the assessment, even though neuropathy typically sticks to the feet and hands and is more common to someone with diabetes.

No, I don’t have diabetes. I don’t even have pre-diabetes. My A1C number (that’s what they look at to assess your likelihood for diabetes) is at the low end of what’s considered normal. It’s not too low though, so there’s nothing to be worried about. But now I have a problem – what exactly is wrong with my legs, and is it permanent? I hope it’s not, but if it is, I’ll have mobility issues for the rest of my life. This is something that I don’t look forward to, since I have more than enough health issues that are going to last me for the rest of my life. I don’t need one more.

I’ve set another appointment with my primary care doctor to see what she says, what tests I need to take to find out what this is, and how I can treat it – if there is a treatment. I’ve had to make some adjustments to my life, though at first I thought I’d lost the ability to do one of the things that makes me really happy.

I thought I’d lost the ability to cook and bake. Both of those require me to stand on my feet, and my legs just couldn’t take it. It was suggested I could sit in the kitchen and direct people, but that wasn’t what I wanted. I wanted to have my hands in everything. I wanted to chop, stir, knead bread, mix pancakes. I wanted to do everything when it came to the cooking.

So, thanks to my wonderful friend Deborah urging me not to give up on something I love so much, I came up with the idea to turn the table that serves as the “island” in our kitchen into my work space. With some help, I cleared it off and got rid of most of the stuff under it. I tucked a stool underneath for me to sit on and voila, instant work area. It got its first test yesterday morning, and it worked fairly well. I still had to do a lot of standing and walking, but that was mostly because my original breakfast plan got scrapped due to not finding a couple ingredients. But if I plan carefully, I shouldn’t have to worry about standing at all, except to pull things out of the oven and to drain things in the sink, like pasta. This makes me very happy.

What I’ve learned through all of this is humans are very adaptable creatures. We constantly adapt our surroundings to suit us. And if that doesn’t work, we adapt to that as well. We know we can do things that will make our lives easier, or at the very least more livable. We are remarkably resilient and can do a lot of stuff.

So when life throws a curve ball in your direction, don’t let it stop you. Roll with it and adapt to the situation. Figure out how to deal with it and move forward. Go ahead and have a good cry if you need to. An emotional breakdown is okay. I’ve had a few since this all started. But the next step is to keep moving beyond them. Keep moving forward. That’s the only way to survive.

The heroes of the medical profession

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Photo via Visual Hunt

I know a lot of you hang around because of my little fiction drabbles – which aren’t always as short as I intend – but I’m going to talk about something else serious today. Then perhaps tomorrow the drabbles will resume. I want to talk to you today about the heroes of the ER – the nurses.

The first people on the scene when you get into the ER aren’t the doctors. They’re the nurses. They take your vital signs, listen to you as you explain your situation, clean up the blood and/or vomit and/or urine/feces as they listen, and note a general assessment in your chart. Then they go off to tell the doctor what’s going on.

They check on you regularly and if they think the doctor is being too slow in doing something for you, they’ll ride their ass until they come in and talk to you. Once that happens, treatment begins. But it isn’t the doctor who does the actual treatment. Once again, it’s the nurses. They’re the ones who stick the IVs into you, who put catheters in places you’re rather not have one, who console you when you hear about all the tests you’re going to have to go through, and administer any medications the doctor thinks you need right at that moment. They’re also the ones who try to make you feel better with a good bedside manner – which many ER doctors don’t have.

The nurses are the ones who check on you after you’ve returned from being wheeled out for getting x-rays, CT scans, MRIs, or whatever tests you’re being given that will take you out of your spot in the ER. They’re the ones who keep you updated on what’s going on. And again, they’re the ones who push the doctor if they think they’re taking too long.

Of course, if the ER is really busy, you might not see your nurse as often as you’d like. But they will make sure you’re checked on, even if they have to beg one of their coworkers to check in on you. They want to be sure you’re safe, cared for, and as pain free as possible.

When the doctor gives their final diagnosis and comes up with a treatment plan, they’ll come in and give you the bare details and then leave. It’s the nurse who brings up the discharge plan and explains everything to you in detail, answers any questions you may have, gives you whatever warnings are needed, and wishes you well. The nurses are the ones who tell you if you have questions to call and if it gets worse to come back. The nurses are the ones who follow you to the door to make sure you’re well enough to leave, and if you can’t walk, they’ll get a wheelchair for you and take you out to your car.

Even outside the ER, nurses are the ones who do the bulk of the work. In a hospital setting, the nurses outside the ER do a lot of what the ER nurses do. In a doctor’s office, they’re the ones who take your vitals, ask you what’s going on, get notes for the doctor, and then they’e also the ones who administer any shots the doctor wants you to have and explains what the doctor wants you to have done if you have questions.

My brother is a trauma nurse. My ex-sister-in-law is a regular hospital nurse. I was a CNA for a few years, who are the right hands of nurses outside of the ER. Be nice to your nurses. For the most part, they genuinely care about you and want to make sure you’re healthy and happy by the end of your visit. And if that’s not going to be the case, they’re the ones who are there to grieve with you, to comfort you, and to show they care and want to ease your burden as much as possible as you go through this terrible time.

I’m not saying doctors don’t do anything. They do a lot. General practice doctors are a lot more hands on, and work hand in hand with their nurses. A lot of them keep their nurses in the room with them to be an extra pair of hands and to explain things when the doctor can’t. But in a hospital setting, doctors have very little time to deal with patients as they often have twenty other patients to attend to – oftentimes more. So they are stretched very thin. That’s why they rely on their nurses to get things done.

Nurses are heroes. Remember that. Nurses are heroes.

Why we can’t have nice things (aka why Alison can’t get the dental work she needs done)

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Photo via Visual hunt

So, I had a visit to the dentist this morning. I had a tooth that was breaking apart that I needed to get pulled ASAP. I’ve been putting it off while I paid down the balance on my last dental bill, but it was to the point I couldn’t wait any longer.

I went in and my dentist – who is AWESOME – looked over my teeth and said he’d pull the broken one and the one next to it since my ultimate goal is to have all my teeth pulled and dentures fitted. I agreed, as long as we could do it as an emergency extraction which is $99 for cash only patients – aka those of us who don’t have dental insurance.

The dental assistant/hygienist talked to the front desk person and came back to tell me that the $99 emergency extraction was only for new patients, and as an existing patient I’d have to pay the full price of $101 for each tooth. That’s $202 to get two molars pulled.

I couldn’t afford it. I have to keep my balance under $300 to maintain the kind of payment plan I have with them so I told her that they just needed to pull the broken tooth. She said she’d go let the dentist know. I wasn’t happy. I really wanted both molars out simply because it meant one less trip to the dentist, which I don’t like anyway.

The dentist came back and told me they were still pulling both teeth, but he’d only charge me for one. He said it would take him an extra 10 seconds to pull the second tooth and he didn’t see any reason to make me go through another visit just to pull one tooth on the upper left side. He told the dental assistant/hygienist to mark it as the first one as a regular extraction and the second one as a provider write off. He said he didn’t care what corporate said. It was his time he was being paid for, and he wasn’t going to waste it making me suffer.

So I got two teeth pulled for the price of one. My mouth is extremely sore right now, and I’m waiting until the numbness fades a bit more before I try to eat something so I can take some Tylenol. But talking to the hygienist/dental assistant, she showed me my treatment plan. I still have a long way to go, and it’s still going to cost me almost $4000 in the end to do what I need to.

Let me point something out real quick – that’s $4000 AFTER I pay off this current extraction and the rest of my earlier balance. That includes all extractions and the dentures. I also want to point out that I’ve already had four teeth pulled. The first was $99 because I was in pain. The other three were the $101. I’ve also had x-rays twice, which are around $180 each time. So I’ve already paid a little over $400 to my dentist. I still have the rest of the balance from the last visit as well as the new balance from this to pay off. That’s going to bring that total up to a little over $600.

Now, I’m on Medicare with Medicaid paying the deductibles for me. Which means I don’t have dental coverage. I did some checking on dental insurance. For the kind I’d need to get the work done I have to have, it would cost me approximately $100-$180 per month as a premium. I can’t afford that. And that was on the low end that barely covered my needs. The really good plans can run you upwards of $300+, if you’re lucky.

I don’t understand why medical, dental, and vision insurances are so fucking expensive. Well, yes I do. It’s because the US utilizes a for-profit insurance system instead of universal healthcare. With the insurance companies out to make as much money as they can while paying out as little as possible, low income to the middle class have to pay so much that it’s almost impossible to get good, comprehensive coverage.

The US Senate wants to repeal the Affordable Care Act without offering us a replacement. They want to take insurance away from almost 11.4 million people. They want to end the Medicaid expansion, which would mean I’d lose my coverage there because I make too much according to the normal federal guidelines. So that would mean I’d be forced to pay all of my deductibles for Part B and Part D Medicare on my own. That would remove an additional $300 from my already extremely limited funds. I would then have to find a supplemental insurance coverage plan since Medicare really doesn’t cover all that much anymore. Which would cost me even more, cutting even deeper into my fixed income.

This is bullshit. Comprehensive coverage – medical, dental, and vision – should be provided for everyone. These are necessities for a good quality of life, not to mention life saving at times. Yes, I realize my taxes would probably go up a bit if we did implement a universal healthcare system here in the US (once my husband’s business starts generating income we will be paying taxes.)

You know what? I’m okay with that. I’m okay with keeping everyone in this country healthy. I’m okay with spending more to help those who are unable to pay exorbitant medical bills due to financial hardships.

People say that with universal healthcare there will be long waits for providers. Like there isn’t right now? In order to get into see my regular doctor, I have to put in a request at least 2-3 weeks in advance of when I want to see her. If I don’t and call for an appointment out of the blue, it could take a month or more before I can see her. If it’s serious enough, they tell me to go to Urgent Care or the ER. Neither of those are cheap, and can often lead to a lot more problems for me.

And specialists? Ha. I had to wait four months to get my first appointment with a neurologist even though my seizures had kicked back after being controlled by medication for 4 years. The hematologist and vascular surgeon I was told to see? The vascular surgeon took three months and the hematologist took a month. The sleep doctor I’m supposed to be seeing for the fact that there’s a chance I have sleep apnea? Four months. So don’t tell me there’s “no wait” with what we have now. Our whole system is fucked and no one seems to care.

I don’t like doing political rants on my blog very often, but right now, call or email or fax your Senator and tell them to tell Mitch McConnell to go fuck a light socket. We deserve insurance. We deserve healthcare coverage. And those like him who are too wealthy, too pampered, too sheltered to give a fuck about the rest of us? They need to go. ASAP.

Not “just a toy”

Fidget cube

This is a fidget cube. In fact, this is MY fidget cube. It has multiple sides and multiple ways of engaging my fingers and my mind. To be specific, let’s turn to the description of the cube itself. “It has sensory tools on all sides: an on/off-style switch, gears, a rolling ball, a small joystick, a spinning disc, a “rubbing stone”, and 5 buttons.”

The reason I’ve been wanting one since I first heard of them is because of their intended purpose. As per the description I found: The cube is intended to provide an easy way to occupy one’s hands and other senses, particularly for self-soothing.

I suffer from anxiety and PTSD. They can be pretty bad, especially when I’m out in public around a lot of people and/or loud voices. I have a tendency to start wringing my hands, picking at my skin, or pulling on my hair when I get frazzled and that causes serious damage. I’ve actually made myself bleed several times because of it. The cube, which is compact enough to fit in the pocket of most of my jeans, gives me something to work with my fingers so I don’t start wringing my hands or doing anything else to hurt myself.

A lot of people are turning these into toys, giving them to children (and even some adults) because they’re novelties and causing problems for those of us who need them for the self-soothing properties. It’s the same with fidget spinners. Fidget spinners were first created in the 1990s for a similar purpose – they were designed to help people with ADHD, autism, or anxiety release nervous energy. Yet they too are being seen as toys, as games for everyone to play with instead of being recognized for their original purpose.

When I was in the store where I got my fidget cube, I watched a rather large family getting fidget spinners. I listened as the children talked about how they were going to practice until they were better than their friends so they could win the bets they made and get candy from their friends. Their mother, who was with them, was encouraging this. I was appalled by this flagrant disregard for the fidget spinners’ true purpose, and then I realized that this was perfectly normal anymore.

People turn therapeutic devices into toys for children all the time. Then they get banned because someone does something stupid, and those of us who are helped by those items are left with nothing to use.

I wish people would understand that what you see as a nonsense toy is actually a tool for many of us to keep us sane, to help us not hurt ourselves, to keep us from passing out from panic or to make sure we can focus on what’s going on around us.

So when you see the next biggest “fad,” do some research. She if there is another purpose behind it. I’m not saying don’t buy it. If you want it, and can afford it, by all means go for it. Just keep in mind that there are people who use the device for something other than just amusement. (Because I will admit using my fidget cube is fun, which is part of what helps alleviate the anxiety.)

My new journey

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Photo via VisualHunt.com

I’ve been absent for a while because I’ve had some changes to make in my life, not the least of which was removing a roommate from our house due to the fact she was a major cause of stress and anxiety for us. We got a puppy specifically to train to hunt and kill moles and it’s my responsibility to help get him trained. I also hit a bad bout of depression and didn’t want to do anything. So I’ve let the dust gather here and kept telling myself “I’ll do it tomorrow.”

Well I’ve started something new and with that, I’ve discovered that “I’ll do it tomorrow” doesn’t cut it anymore in some things. One of which is this blog. Another? My physical health.

If you follow me on Facebook, you’ve seen my pictures. You know what I’m working with. My goal is to change that. For those who haven’t seen the pictures (and you won’t unless we’re friends on FB), I am overweight. I don’t like how lethargic it makes me. So last week I started poking around with fitness apps and doing some walking and half-assing yoga in an attempt to figure out how I wanted to do things.

This week I posted front and side view pictures of myself on FB showing my current physical state. After that, I made a commitment to myself and to every one of my friends that I would see this through. I would achieve my goal. And I intend to follow up on that.

Tims is the main spur behind this. He’s been working on himself for over a year and has trimmed down. He says he feels better and I realized part of my depression was probably because I sit in a corner all day on my computer. With the addition of Whiskey, our terrier mix puppy (I’ll share a picture of him at the end, along with Blackheart, our new New Zealand rabbit), I don’t have any choice. I have to be up and moving part of the day.

So I decided to make Whiskey part of my motivation as well as my husband. Tims pushes me to get out of bed, do my yoga/stretches, and encourages me to keep up the good work even when I feel like I’m faltering. Whiskey gets me outside multiple times a day and I end up taking at least 2 walks with him (barring heavy rain since neither of us likes walking in that) to exercise us both. Add to that access to a stationary bike and now you have my entire fitness regime. Along with watching my diet, the caloric intake, what types of calories I’m taking in, etc., my health goals are on their way to success.

I’m aiming to drop 90 lbs. To get to my “ideal” weight as per the BMI, that would require 130 lbs coming off. Also, I’d look like a skeleton with skin stretched over it if I got that thin. Honestly, BMI is bullshit. What’s “normal” for some is far from “normal” for others. Tims, me, and the one of our roommates who is actively charting his fitness goals and endeavors with us, all prefer our personal goals and are working hard to achieve them.

My successes today: I made 2 miles total in my two walks, did 10 minutes on the stationary bike at a low resistance level (when I couldn’t even make it 5 at 0 resistance level before), and managed 20 minutes of yoga/stretching in two separate bouts. My hope is by May I’ll be up to walking 3+ miles a day and can handle a higher resistance level on the stationary bike. I also want to be more flexible.

If you’re starting something new, take it in small steps. Set easy goals at first, and then increase their difficulty as you get better at it. Keep working and, if you can, work with someone else. It makes the journey so much easier.

(No, I’m not going to fill my blog with health posts…this is just a “hi, I’m not dead, here’s what’s going on” post. I’ll get back to the stories shortly.

And as promised…

My recent adventures

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Photo via VisualHunt.com

So, yes I’ve been posting little random bits of stories and yes, I’ll get back to that. But I wanted to tell you what I’ve been dealing with lately. Namely…my heart.

Back in August I started having chest pains. At first I figured it was nothing. I didn’t have the signs of a heart attack that they tell you to watch for in women. I just had a lot of pain radiating from the left side of my chest into my arm and down my side. When the pain continued to the point where I was almost sobbing, I went to the ER. They did an EKG, told me I was okay, gave me some pain meds and a muscle relaxer, and sent me home.

This was the second week in August. We’re in the 4th week (or 3rd if you don’t count the first few days as a week) of September and I’m still having pain. It’s not as bad and it seems to have relocated to mostly my shoulder, but the concern for heart issues is there as there is a huge history of early onset heart issues in my family. So there’s the chance, given my age (not 40 yet but close) and my family history (don’t get me started on that), that there’s something wrong.

So on Monday I made the trip in to have a heart stress test. Because I’m having trouble with my left knee – another reason I’ve been having issues most of August and September – they didn’t put me on the treadmill. Monday I went in after fasting and was injected with something that sped up my heart. It also made it hard to breathe, made me sick to my stomach, made me feel like a heavy weight was sitting on my whole body, and made me feel hot (and not in a good way.) That feeling lasted 5 minutes, and then I was a little disoriented after for maybe a minute, but beyond that I was fine. They did another EKG while my heart was sped up and nothing came up on it. They’d also shot me up with a radioactive isotope to make my heart stand out better in pictures. They took some pictures of my heart and told me to come in the next day for the second half of the test. Total time in the doctor’s office? 4 hours.

Tuesday I went back in and they injected me with that isotope again. Twenty minutes after the injection I went in and she took pictures of my heart during my “resting” phase. After that, we were done. Sort of.

See now that the test is over, I still have to meet with my regular doctor to find out what all those tests mean. So the first week of October, I’m making two trips in that I’m not looking forward to. One is for an EEG (sleep deprivation…yay!) and the other is to talk to my doctor about the heart tests. Now, I’m pretty sure if something was wrong I’d be in there a whole hell of a lot sooner than the first week of October, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t something. Just not something life shatteringly dangerous for me. We’ll have to see.

So yeah. I’ve been dealing with that lately. We’ll see what else happens going forward.

Okay, and now we’re going back to our irregularly scheduled flash fiction and random weird story bits.