Wednesday, April 13, 2011
I stayed home from work on Tuesday because of medical appointments. I had an 8:30 appointment at the "Spine Clinic" with my new doctor. Wow, is she a keeper!! I walked in just on time and within 5 minutes, I was in the back with a nurse. The nurse walked out of the room and Dr. Miller walked into my room--there was no long waiting. We were together from about 8:45 until 10:00. She was absolutely amazing to me.
First of all, she had already combed through all of my records and tests from the other doctor and she had been through my history packet. (It was about ten pages long and had taken me a few days to fill out.) She already "knew" me before we started. We spent over half of the time talking and she asked for more information about how different things had worked for me. She was very positive about the meds I currently take--in particular the ones from my rheumy and my pain doc. She told me that two of my meds (gabapentin and savella) were typical doses for treating fibromyalgia, but after explaining to me how they work in treating nerve damage and pain, she also told me that both of them could be taken in bigger doses for my issues. She explained a variety of causes of pain and how I have several different types. Anyway, one of these meds works on nerve pain at the location and the other works on nerve pain at the brain, between them, they can control pain in a positive way. She simply believes that because of the damage in my back that I need a (much) stronger dose. We are starting with the gabapentin and over the next few days, I am moving from 600mg three times a day (a total of 1800) to 900mg 4 times a day (the maximum dose of 2700.)
She was very kind and explained why I have so much pain and she said that her approach will be to work at reducing pain 10% here and 10% there until we can make it a manageable piece. She was surprised that nobody had ever prescribed any compound creams to rub into my back. She ordered a cream that has to be made by a chemist/pharmacist who creates compounds. There are only 3 such pharmacies in our area and it takes 24-48 hours to make these. Two of them will take insurance, so I went with the one closest to home. This cream will contain a base and three meds--again one of them being gabapentin to deal with the nerve pain. She explained how the two surgeries I had, as with any surgery, has created scar tissue pain, pain from the nerves that get severed during any surgical procedure, pain from the work that was done, etc... She said that one of the things I need is treatment of all of these things in order to get relief from what I live with all of the time. She also kept notes during our conversation and when we finished, she gave me a copy of those notes with the immediate things we are doing highlighted, so that if I have any questions or problems, I can call her right away and we can refer to what we said.
Next, she gave me a physical exam. She actually looked at my back. Nobody ever has done that, except my rheumy. She examined the scar and told me that there were pockets of swelling around it that indicated inflammation and that there was severe dimpling around the scar which indicated massive scar tissue that most likely involved multiple kinds of tissue and bone. She checked my range of motion which was severely limited not only due to the fusion, but more than she would have anticipated. She ordered physical therapy (which is what I was hoping for.) She ordered 4-8 weeks to basically help me to get new activities for my home/ daily exercise plan for strengthening and endurance. She was very happy about the daily work I do at the pool and because I already exercise, she said that she also wanted to prescribe a brace for me to use, especially at work. This won't be a big bulky thing like after my surgery, but something that I can manage on my own and will help support me and my posture. My posture is something that I have wanted help with for a long time, but when I have asked what could be done to help me to stand up straight more consistently, I have basically been told that I have to work on that myself--My problem with that is that I don't generally realize how bent over I am unless I see myself in a mirror and then when I try to correct it, I cannot get straight enough.
She also found issues in my hips like my rheumy mentioned. She said that she was surprised that I wasn't experiencing far more pain in them than I do, but that that is probably because I both ignore it and it is masked by the pain in my back. She suspects as we get the back pain more and more under control that I am going to notice my hips more and more, especially the one on the right. She is going to do three trigger point injections in my back in three areas to deal with the swelling around my spine. Then on my future plans, she may do some special injections in my hips because she said that there is a good deal of bursitis that is evident, especially in the right one and that might be adding to my overall discomfort.
Finally, we discussed elements of my daily life and my job and she talked about what I shouldn't be doing. She wrote a note for my employer that is both specific and restrictive. I am not to lift over 5 pounds and I am not to move furniture. I am not to do repetitive movements that involve bending and twisting at the waist with things like small chairs to be avoided. She suggested a good chair on wheels with back support to be part of what I need and that when I am doing things like working with first graders at computers, I should be able to roll around the table and be at their level rather than what I have been struggling to do all along.
She "knew" things about me like my sleep issues and my morning difficulties with out me telling her--she simply commented about them and asked for my confirmation. She understood my frustration with what I can do in the pool and what I cannot duplicate on land and explained why that was so--and it might not ever transfer over, but we are going to try. I have 5 more appointments for injections, the brace, and the first follow-up and will be missing time from work, but this is so worth it. She was so different that my former doc--who barely gave me two minutes of his time. She acknowledged from the get-go that I have multiple issues and that they make my life difficult and she was kind and respectful. She also told me that she believes there is always something else we can try if one thing doesn't work. I left with a plan, a back-up plan and a good deal of information that we discussed. I also left with HOPE, and that is not something I have had about my back in years.
Taking meds around the clock will take some getting used to, but if I am going to be awake from pain, swallowing my late night dose won't be too much to do. I am almost hoping that my new problem will be that I sleep through it and will have to use an alarm to wake up to take it. The dose in the night should give me more flexibility in the morning and starting my day with less stiffness and pain will be something I haven't experienced in well over a decade.
This was the most worthwhile time I have spent with a doctor in a long time. She was friendly and personable--and mostly she acknowledged the many issues I have without the skepticism or rudeness I have experienced with a certain doctor in the past. She didn't try to tell me that I was "normal" or "fine" and didn't call my issues "back pain" like it was what all people deal with. I am on my way to a better quality of life and do have a future that doesn't include the constant pain, fatigue, and depression that not being able to do simple things like walking sets up. I am so glad that I went with the new doctor who hadn't any preconceived ideas about who I am and what I need.
Life is good and I am giving thanks!!
Sunday, April 10, 2011
I spent Friday night working on my writing for National Boards component 1 until I left at 7 for the fitness center. I worked on it again on Saturday for several hours. Today, I spent 3 hours learning how to create a video clip, edit it, and burn a DVD before I spent two more hours revising the revision I finished Friday. Tomorrow I will take that revision, remove the "questions" that I included so that I would not miss out on answering them completely--and then I will most likely need to delete part before I determine it is done.
On Tuesday, between doctor appointments, I will finalize those videoclips and get them burned. By the weekend, I will have completed the written work that goes with them and share them with my friends who are helping me to edit. Next week, I will do the reflection and then, I will revise the videoclip writing while my friends are editing the reflection. I should get this all in the mail by 25th, which is a few days before the deadline.
Forgive me for not being around a lot right now, but this is one of my goals and I knew it was coming.
Other updates... Miles had his surgery on Tuesday as planned and things went well. He is sporting a big, thick post-op bandage that he must wear until his visit to the surgeon on the 18th.... Micah had a really good week last week at school, only one report of making noises (beeping sounds in social studies class.) He is kind of sad that he isn't getting to laugh with his friends and make the noises--my youngest just doesn't understand that several of those kids were laughing at him rather than with him. I am thinking that I don't have to share that bit of wisdom with him right now (if ever.)
Right now, we are in the midst of a pretty nasty storm--I just heard on the weather channel that the folks in Wisconsin were getting it hard and that we will have it hard here for the next hour at least. Rain, hail, thunder, lightning, high winds, and possible tornadoes--what a great show of natural power in a very unwelcome manner.
Have a great week--I'll stop by as I can.
Monday, April 04, 2011
I spent a few hours working on the videos we have taken for my National Boards Renewal last evening. I want to let everyone know that this is due by the end of the month and that this is not negotiable, so my time here is likely to be limited. I need my time at the pool and gym more than anything, so I have priorities. It is an interesting thing, but when I went through the National Board certification process ten years ago, I was finished a month early. I don't even have my first drafts completed on about half of this. The difference between now and then is easy for me to determine. I had my first two knee surgeries while I was working on this process and although my children were all 10 years younger than now, I also had a babysitter. Since then, I have had some 40 surgeries with over a fourth of them being big ticket procedures as an inpatient. The majority of these have been related to my arthritis--and that certainly was exaggerated by my life as an overweight/ obese person. The good news for me is that I finally found out why I needed to live far more healthy--but I may have helped delay some of these inevitable issues if I had "gotten my spark" sooner. Genetics has played a major role in my condition, but the weight has added so much pressure to my joints and skeletal system. I deal with a level of pain every day that most people can't hope to understand, and it makes me frustrated and angry from time to time--but I am doing all I can to help myself and I am proud of my efforts. I do think that this is part of why my writing is taking more time for my renewal than it did at first. I have looked at my videos from ten years ago--and I look so much better than I did then. I am wearing a boot on my broken foot in some of them and am on crutches during most of them as well. However, here I am with my walker--and I weigh over 100 pounds less than I did ten years ago. I am a different person, no doubt about it.
On a similar note, a lady came to me while I was working out at the pool yesterday. She wanted to let me know that she has been around and noticed me working out for over a year. She told me that I look like a different person now, that I seem to have more energy and just look younger than I used to. I thanked her for her comments and couldn't help smiling. I believe it is the time I spend working out that has made such a difference for me. The soothing water in the pool allows me mobility that I don't have. I love to "aqua jog" and I get my cardio going every day by "running" through the water. I never expected to be a runner of any kind after a life time of avoiding this kind of activity. I find unsolicited compliments to be motivating and I am glad that that lady took her time to talk with me. I am not sure who she is, but I will watch for her and let her know that she was helpful and kind.
I bounced around between being ill with this tummy upset yesterday and being okay. It was a Communion Sunday for us, and those days always help me to focus on all that is good in my world. A high school student did a lovely French horn solo during the service which brought a lot of memories out. Mitchell played the French horn in high school and college, and this young man goes to school with Marissa. They share many of the same music activities and they are working together on their current musical. (I think it is called "In the Woods." Marissa plays someone's mother and she "dies" in the play. She spent over half of her spring break at school working on this with the choreographer and on rehearsals.) She is always happiest when she is working on music performances. I sure hope that she finds a way to incorporate this into her future career.
Miles is a bit subdued and I think nervous about his surgery tomorrow. I know he regrets the accident with his pellet gun and that he has been teased a great deal about "shooting himself." He is learning a few important lessons about not being able to turn back the clock and possibly needing to take his medication. Since he graduated from high school, he hasn't taken his meds and he gives me no valid reason for this choice. ("I just don't take them." isn't valid. When I ask if they make him feel badly or nervous or whatever, he always answers "No.") I have videotaping scheduled for Tuesday and was going to cancel that, but my husband says he can be with Miles and that I should go forward with my schedule. This is a hard decision for me to agree with because I feel like I should be there with him when he has this surgery. It will be similar to the procedure in which I had the bone removed from my hand or my DeQuervain's release. They tell you that you will be awake, but I slept through all 3 of those procedures because of the medicine to "relax" me. They give you an IV in one arm and then they apply a tourniquet to the arm that needs surgery along with a second IV. For my son, who hasn't had any medical procedures since he had tubes in his ears as a 3 year old, this is an incredibly big deal. I am thinking that I could use some of this time to do my writing and that it might be a good day to miss work and be a mother. (I guess I'll figure it out today...)
I have a lot to accomplish today--my lesson plans are jammed full of good work for my kids. We are going through our data folders and setting our goals for the rest of the year. We are doing phonics lessons today and we will also work on sight words and independent reading. I think I will be tired before all is done and I will be looking forward to that pool tonight. (It was interesting that the sauna was up and running on Sunday even though there were signs up all over saying that the women's sauna and the steam room weren't working.) I hope that things are good tonight too. It is the night for one of the better life guards as well, so it will be a good workout in peaceful conditions.
I'm looking forward to today!!
Sunday, April 03, 2011
What a week... I think when you "sign on" to have 8 children, it goes without saying that things won't be quiet. However, I mistakenly believed that when my children started growing up that things would mellow out a bit. Ha Ha Ha!! I think it is a good thing that I have lost weight and gotten active these days because with all that they keep me doing now, I need the energy and ability to get around more than I did when they were toddlers. That might be because a parent hasn't any choices when they are small, we stick to them to keep them safe. The places and activities that my life has dished out this week, however, has made me understand a couple of life truths. The first is that when we sign on to be a parent, it is definitely for life. The second is that I don't think our kids ever seem to be "grown up" in our eyes.
Highlights of my week include Matthew's birthday with his cake and all 29 candles, getting my 25 year pin as an elementary teacher in our district complete with a hug from the principal I work for (?? people are still teasing me about that public display from her given our recent history,) Miles' trip to the ER and his surgery planned for Tuesday morning, Marissa's shiny new class ring that is so big that it might act as a bracelet for one of the dogs and she told them it "was fine," Trivia Night at church with my family and all of the giggles and fun that went with that, and then yesterday...
Yesterday started during the night on Friday. I woke up with severe pain in my tummy--cramps that were maybe in my upper intestines, I'm not quite sure for much except that it HURT. It may have been what I ate Friday--I chose going to the pool over grocery shopping Thursday, so there wasn't anything I would eat for lunch. My daughter said she would bring me a salad or something, but got called in to work, so I didn't eat until after I got home. I am typically a very slow eater, but I was pretty famished and I ate more quickly than normal. (baked chicken and peaches...) I had a few bits of some snacks at church that weren't my usual choices and then had fresh strawberries when we got home. I don't quite know which change in my usual habits might have triggered this, but I am so afraid it is also connected to my new medication. (Savella) This med is maybe helping to take the bite off of some of my fibromyalgia pain and it certainly is helping me to sleep a bit linger at a time, so I don't want to blame it right away, but I have had several episodes of tummy issues since I started taking it that it is making me think it is the culprit. I thought I could live with it, but what happened Friday with what is still lingering tonight might be convincing me that I have to give this up. It doesn't seem fair because every medication that might have given me relief from either my arthritis or my fibro has been a problem. Vioxx was pulled from the market, Celebrex gave me serious edema that triggered congestive heart disease, Steroids/ cortisone causes me to swell and to eat, etc, etc, etc... I am going to give this a few more days because there was enough to leave a question in my mind that maybe it isn't the Savella.
I got a haircut yesterday because I was looking pretty shaggy. I took Marissa with me--she has such beautiful hair like several of her brothers. It is thick, long and naturally curly. She complains about it constantly. My hair is thin and well, unhealthy. I lost so much after my big surgery on Oct. 2009 that it hasn't come back. I used to have it permed for some body and to make it look more full, but it isn't strong enough to endure that--so I had her take an inch off of it. Maybe it will strengthen up soon, but for now, I am thankful to have the hair I have. I can look at my daughter and be thrilled for her. She doesn't understand that she might have gotten my hair like Megan did. Megan has teased me a lot lately about her getting all of the "bad genes" from me. We still haven't proven that I am the contributor of the gene that caused her blood clot. I will get the results of that test when I have my physical in a week and a half.
Finally, no comments from me would be right without a rant about the weather, well, just because. Everyone here sees me as some kind of wimp because it is still too cold for me and I won't give up my winter coat. It has dropped into the 20's several days this week. Come on folks, it is now April. I want to see buds on trees and the grass turning green, and for it to be shirt sleeve weather--but it hasn't done that yet. I hurt in the cold, and to top it off--the sauna broke down at the fitness center sometime before I got there on Thursday. (I was the first person to turn it in, but it was cold, cold, cold when I went in, so it hadn't been working for hours.) I enjoy that dry, warm heat so much--it is my reward for working out. It takes the cold away from my lower back after my time in the pool. Our pool is an indoor pool, not a "warm" one with its temp usually from 87-89. The hardware in my spine seems to adapt to that and chills me from deep within--so I spend some 20 minutes in the sauna with a soap opera magazine and that is my lazy time each day. I want it to be warm. I want to spend my 20 minutes of "me time" out in the sunshine getting natural vitamin D and feeling warm all over. I know we are in the midwest and that this weather might be similar to what we usually have, but after the tough, cold, LONG winter that this past season has given us with mountains of snow that started earlier than usual--well, I want sunshine and warmth and I would like it today, please. Oh well. If you pay attention, I will not complain when it is over 100 degrees for day after day in July and August around here like many people will do, even with the high humidity we get from our location between two rivers. I love the warm weather--bring it on. (The positive around here is that we seemed to have missed out on the record flooding they predicted and have had people in both IA and IL sandbagging for relentlessly for the past 3 weeks.)
I have rambled enough for now, I am going to try to go back to sleep like I should be doing right now--like everyone else in the house but Scooter and Lady. The doggies seem to know when I can use their company. Chloe went back to sleep already and Frankie won't give up his special bed with Marissa just because I'm awake, lol.
Have a wonderful week as we get April going in style. I am looking for all of the green to start showing up!!
Thursday, March 31, 2011
This has been a week of events...and it is just Thursday. We had an inservice day on Monday and they honored retirees and those of us receiving our service pins. (Mine was for 25 years.) There were two teachers who received pins for 40 years of service, that's a life commitment to education in our district, without a doubt. It was nice, but I am always a bit uncomfortable trotting myself with my walker in front of so many people. I wonder if I'd feel quite the same without the walker? Hmm, maybe someday, it is in my plans!
We had technology inservice after that. Part of it went well and part wasn't so great. I guess that is always the chance we take with a menu of activities to choose from. I have been trying to find out how to add photos to my web site. Our district uses "word press" and what I think I have learned and understand is that it isn't possible to add a really decent photo because of the restriction on pixel sizes. That seems silly because some photos would improve the entire experience. However, it is the best I can do with what is provided. I miss our former format when I had a lot more creative control over what we could do, but our tech people moved to this program and that's what we have.
We were back to business as usual on Tuesday and Wednesday. The kids are always awesome after a break, eager to be back and learning. Behavior has been outstanding and interest has been high. My daughter came yesterday to videotape some of my lessons for my National Boards. I had a few kids absent yesterday which didn't make sense to me, but I guess some illnesses are still going around. (I have had the sniffles for so long that I can't remember not having to replenish tissues before leaving the house.) I haven't seen the videos yet because I couldn't download them, I left the cord at home, lol. We are planning to do one more day of this on Tuesday and then, I am going to use something I have. I don't know how to "plan" a lesson to put in a video because I try to do the BEST stuff in each of my lessons. I don't know if I can share one as a video blog or not--all of my kids have a parental permission slip for videos, but putting other people's children online is a bit of a worry for me.
Wednesday is an "early dismissal" day in our district--we add 15 minutes to the other 4 days a week and then the kids get out an hour and 15 minutes earlier on Wednesday so that staff can work together and have meetings. Our building had science things to work on, so that gave me a chance to work on things pertaining to my students. I made a phone call home to check on some technology things (that earlier mentioned cord and a about burning DVDs from a video recording) to find out our 20 year old son had an accident. My friends who are parents of kids with Aspergers and AD/HD might understand the added element to this.
He used his own money to buy a pellet gun last fall. I hate anything to do with any type of guns, my husband sold most of his stuff when we married and what he has left is so disassembled that I am not sure even he could put them back together if he could find all of the pieces. However both Miles (20) and Mason (18) have been doing target shooting since the fall without any big issues. Yesterday, Miles was out walking with his pellet gun and he dropped it. As he grabbed the barrel, it discharged and he shot his hand. The pellet entered his left hand at the base of the middle finger and is now wedged deep inside it. I called just after this happened and of course, I told him he needed to go to the ER.
He drove to school to get me--it was almost the end of our work day anyway and the minutes that I left early have been more than given back each day as I teach before and after school on my own time, so I left with him. He hadn't washed this up much and there was a lot of bleeding. We checked in at the hospital just before 3. We waited almost an hour for the triage and the nurse laughed at him a bit. He had a good sense of humor about this and takes responsibility for his mistake. The ER began filling up with a ton of people, seemingly for the most part to be parents with sick children who I think belonged with a doctor at an office more than at the ER...About 5, they took him for some x-rays and he told me that he got to see them, and the pellet was exactly where he knew it was. (OK??) Anyway, it was 6:30 when we finally got to see the ER staff. The nurse discussed what choices the doctors had in caring for him--and remember, this still hadn't been cleaned up yet. He still had the paper towels around it that he brought from home. The PA checked him out next and told us that he thought it was wedged too deeply for them to pop it out. Finally, we saw the doc and he agreed that it needed to be taken care of by a surgeon. At this point, they gave him a tetanus shot and cleaned him up. We left with a prescription for an antibiotic, pain meds, ibuprofen, and the number of the orthopedic surgeon on call. They also put his finger in a splint. (He is part of the group I use, but a doc I haven't seen before. That took some doing, lol.) We got home at 8 PM.
I didn't get to go to the pool and was just achy and grumpy. I did as much moving and walking at the ER as I could, but it wasn't the same as being at the pool. I had a burger for dinner--it was easy and fast enough because I was starving. First thing when I get to work today, I need to make Miles an appointment with the doc so they can take care of his hand. He has acted as if it doesn't hurt and he begged them to just take it out last night, but I am glad they were more prudent. My 20 year old doesn't understand the consequences of permanent damage quite the way that I do.
I guess there wasn't enough commotion in my life right now, so Miles stepped up to the plate to add some. He is sure remorseful and did a lot of talking about "do overs" and what he should have done. I am thinking there is some maturity in that part of all of this. I do know that he is going to get a lot of teasing by his siblings with references to "shooting himself" for a long time to come.
I am glad that the rest of my week is going smoothly!!
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