Tag Archives: chronic pain

PREMONITIONS & REALITIES

Photo Source: http://www.novedadestarot.es

Years ago, I needed a bottle of essential oil to ward off the desert spiders that had invaded my former rental.  I found it at a store that sold odd herbs, good luck charms, amulets, candles, things pertaining to black magic, and items usually used by fortune tellers, or psychics as they’re referred to nowadays.  There had been a sign in the window that there were psychics available, but I really couldn’t justify spending money I didn’t have on an unproven science, although I was curious.

So, I perused the hamsas and evil eyes after I grabbed my oil and then a woman with wild, blonde, curly hair came out from somewhere and looked at me and then started to talk. She had noticed my necklace and told me she was a Russian Jew.  I said that I was, as well, or at least most of my father’s side came from there.  Wouldn’t she know that if she were psychic? She rambled on a bit, presumably to get my business and then left while saying, “Jews are very psychic,” to which I replied, “Well, I’m not.”  I paid for my oil and never went back to that store, but I go to a shop in the same complex every couple of months and think about that comment.

I get premonitions.  When my paternal grandfather was dying in the hospital, I visited him every night after work.  He was on a respirator and pumped full of morphine and every breath sounded like his last, but I knew when he was going to die. No one had told me that it was probably his last night and he looked the same: a comatose body in a bed in the ICU, but I knew.  On that last night, I kissed him on his high forehead, not so different from my own, and said, “I love you, Papa.”  He died early the next morning and I wasn’t there, but at least I got to say goodbye.

When I was young, I had this premonition that the number 22 was bad luck.  On the 22nd of that month, my brother and his friend were sliding down our staircase on vinyl pillows—a rather stupid thing to do—and my brother’s friend didn’t land right and broke his arm.  That was just the beginning of bad luck with the number 22 and I wouldn’t even fly on that day. When I hit my head this January, it was on the 22nd.

Oh sure, most people probably can relate or have had similar experiences—I never claimed to be psychic if you recall, but I wish I were.

But, one premonition that came to me within the last 10 years seems to be coming true, once again.  I said that I wouldn’t make it past a certain age: a milestone birthday which most people dread that is just around the corner.  I’d make it to that age, but not any further.  Do I care?  No I don’t, as long as my cat is okay.

You might wonder about that.  Life is so great; there’s so much to do and so little time; there are friends and lovers and soul mates; there is travel and adventure.  That’s not my life anymore.

My life starts the same everyday and has for the last 13 years: I wish I’d died in my sleep as soon as the alarm wakes me up from my medication-induced shallow sleep and the chronic pain hits me like a ton of bricks.  The pain feels like someone took my skin off, shrunk it 4 sizes too small, and put it back on my body so that the muscles and fascia are literally bruised to the bone from the compression.  I have to get out of bed and move and try to see with the new vision I was also blessed with.  I need hours in a recliner with a down pillow to get my pain down to a level 7 on the 1-10 scale, but I have to keep getting up, moving around, and stretching or it just gets worse as my muscles chronically go into spasm. I have to figure out what to eat when I’m down to less than 10 foods, and I’ll still break out in painful rashes and my GI tract will be a mess all day and night.  And at some point—usually after midnight if I don’t have a ridiculous appointment, I have to shower and deal with the upkeep that a human body requires unless you want to look like the vagrants in the parking lot here.  Then, there are the chores that are so hard, like cleaning my 300 sf room here at the motel and using the laundry room down the hall.

Most people do all this everyday without a second thought.  I know, I used to do it too, and I worked more than full-time and went to the gym and hung out here and there and had friends that I did things with.  But, now it’s sheer torture to just get through a day filled with nothing.  There is no meaning in a life without purpose and to stay alive, whatever that even means, just to live everyday in a body that’s a torture chamber is beyond my comprehension.  And if anyone thinks there’s a meaning in any of this, I’ll let you know right now that there isn’t.

However, I try.  I’ve been trying since 2001 and while I manage to make it through this same routine, or add more fun to it by throwing in the painful sclerals if I go out, doing errands, rushing the routine to get to an appointment, driving a 5-speed with seats that feel like they’re made out of concrete, and on and on, I’m so very tired of it.

I forced myself out tonight, in fact.  It’s been a bad week, month, year, decade, 13 years.  There was yet another shooting around the corner off a street I refer to as The Jungle.  Gun violence hits way too close to home for me and the PTSD I never wrote about gets triggered and everything goes haywire. Then, a guy who stayed at this motel the 1st time I was here came back—fresh from being released from a mental institution, which is where he should have been for life.

Back in late 2010, he was my neighbor and threw me from one side of the hallway to another after I got on him about all his illegal activities and highly annoying behavior in here.  He also destroyed at least 3 rooms in this motel, had a huge Rottweiler at one point that was anything but trained, got his ghetto cousin and mother, who was an old prostitute, a room in here as well, and the general manager could have cared less.  He only left when the rent went up and most of his type of people couldn’t afford to stay, and I left a few weeks later as I’d found a cheaper and seemingly nicer studio down the street which later became a sea of raw sewage, but this guy left owing over $4,000 in back rent and damage.  Well, seeing that the GM has some sort of white guilt and just feels so sorry for this poor, half-black guy and his phony sob story of being a combat veteran which must be part of his delusional disorder, he’s now back and if I could see like I used to, I’d buy the .380 I had 20 years ago because I apparently could have been a sharpshooter I was that good.

But, I digress.  I forced myself out tonight.  I had to do a few errands and thought I’d stop at a relatively inexpensive clothing store and perhaps cheer myself up by buying a new top that wasn’t from the thrift store, and I rarely even do that.  I found a couple of things after a lot of searching because I’m picky and don’t like cheap looking clothing and extra small is not a common size in this town.  The prices were too high for synthetics and cotton blends, another favorite down here, and I sure wasn’t paying for a label at that store, but I headed to the over-lit dressing room, regardless.

And there I was in the mirror and I had my sclerals in.  The old, gaunt-faced skeleton covered in black bruises and aubergine purpura and a venous pattern like a road map all from Ehlers-Danlos syndrome.  Everything looked awful because I looked awful.  I wanted long sleeves to hide the blue veins and hundreds of weird wrinkles stacked on my elbows due to the faulty collagen in my skin.  I wished I could wear my winter gloves to hide the acrogeria on my hands that makes them look like an old lady’s.  I only like V-necks, but all I could see were the bones and veins in my chest and my neck that’s so thin and vein-y it looks like my head is too big and that it’ll snap in half at any moment.  That was enough.  I know what I once looked like.  I remember being attractive and normal and that was stolen from me like everything else.  No wonder someone found my blog by typing “Ehlers-Danlos freaks” into Google.

So, I bought a long sweater with a hood that wasn’t worth $30 bucks—when it’s already warm here and will be 115° soon.  I went to my car, got on the freeway with the cars speeding past me at 90 mph, and cried the whole way back to the motel with the mashugana who just got out of the cuckoo’s nest on the top floor.

I have a joke with the staff here that the only way I’ll ever get out of this motel is in a body bag.  It’s a family legacy: my paternal great-grandfather died of a massive heart attack in his suite at the Biltmore, where he was residing while doing business in another state.  But, at least he died in the Biltmore and not a 2 star motel that now serves as a halfway house for mental patients.

My, what a confusing post.  It’s going backwards and forwards and sideways, rather like how my brain is these days.  It’s no secret that I don’t like blogging.  I already tried to stop once and even wrote a post that I was, but quitting is for failures said my father long ago, and as all I’ve done is fail since getting sick due to my body being some degenerative thing that I’m just stuck in, I forced myself to keep going.  I had my search engine crowd who needed information and then I met bloggers along the way, which I didn’t even know was part of blogging as I’d never really seen a blog until my youngest brother created this very blog for me to document my corneal collagen cross-linking experience—and that I have done.

To tidy up this ridiculously long and rambling post, which happens to coincide with the one year anniversary of the death of someone I cared about very much and is just adding to my depressed state, I am bidding adieu to my blog for now.  I may be back in 2 weeks and I may never be back, but I need a huge break from it and from WordPress and this unsettling feeling of giving so much of my time to others on here and getting very little in return.  To the very few people who have been a friend on here, I thank you and am sorry I can’t be there for you right now, but I can feel the sand trickling through the hourglass—that old premonition—and need this time to focus on myself and fold my cards if all else fails.

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ON LOSING A HEALTHCARE PROVIDER

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Image Source: http://www.clipartsheep.com

Years ago, I needed a new doctor for my now misdiagnosis and I found a specialist for that syndrome, which was odd for this city.  He was a PM&R physician and did a very thorough exam, but somehow was yet another provider who failed to realize that I actually had a genetic disorder: Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, classical type (EDS).

I remember that at my first consultation and after my exam, he told me straight out that he had no magic pill for me, but that what he could offer was compassionate care.  It was what I—a patient with a chronic, painful, and debilitating illness—needed to hear, even if he thought I had something else.

No one knows what happened, but a year later, all of his patients received a letter stating that the doctor would no longer be in practice there.  No other information would be given and I was transferred to an associate, but that was the first time I had a complete meltdown over losing a healthcare provider.

Prior to getting sick, I just had the doctors most have and maybe saw them 6 times a year for annual exams, refills of a few medications I took, and then the endless upper respiratory infections I’d get from every cold, which only turned into massive bronchitis because I was too busy working to go to the doctor.  But, things change when you get a chronic illness. I now have more than 20 medications, I have over 10 specialists who largely do nothing for me, and I spend 3 or 4 days a week in some waiting room, which literally makes me sicker.  When healthcare providers become your entire life, and not by choice, losing one is utterly devastating as the process of finding another and dealing with records and forms I can’t see and every other hurdle you have to jump over in the U.S. is an utter nightmare.

I have been to 4 doctors for my EDS, formerly called something else, since I lost the one who disappeared and then the entire practice closed.  They were all inept or rude or left me waiting hour upon hour or all of the above. One, who I absolutely believe was an anti-Semite based on his country of origin and how friendly he was with everyone but me, actually said something so rude to me that a tear fell down my cheek in the exam room, and I wish with all my might that he had never seen that.

Right before my corneal surgery and my diagnosis of EDS last year, I found another PM&R who was willing to see me, as most weren’t interested in the misdiagnosis.  I had come from a rundown and horribly unprofessional practice where my doctor literally walked out the front door while I was waiting for him. I really didn’t know him as he spent maybe 2 minutes with me signing prescriptions and nothing else. The staff were rude and complacent and I was months behind in scripts for physical therapy and they could care less.

I knew this new doctor I had was smart and he actually questioned my misdiagnosis, but he seemed rather uncaring and disinterested by my second appointment like the others. I couldn’t see him well, but noted that he preferred to stand on the opposite side of the room and wouldn’t make eye contact with me as I can see color, like the sclera of the eyes.  If he has a social phobia, then he should have gone into research and not private practice.  It was a place to get my refills and scripts for physical therapy, which is how I view most providers in my life: robotic people who do the basics of their job while I get an extended stay at the Hanoi Hilton courtesy of my broken-down body.

One day, I was told I’d be seeing the nurse as the doctor was busy.  Well, that figured.  Unlike the doctor, his nurse was actually a person and she was friendly and talked and asked questions and was concerned.  So, I became her patient and didn’t see the doctor anymore.  I always took the last appointment since I can’t wake up and am really slow to get ready due to my pain and stiffness, and she would spend over 30 minutes with me and it felt like I finally wasn’t just a number or a nuisance anymore.

We tried a few other medications without much success as usual, she attempted to appeal the insurance issue with my physical therapy being cut-off, she was researching EDS as fast as I was, and since she was from Ohio, she always said she wished she could just stick me on a plane and send me to the Cleveland Clinic because she was so frustrated, and not by me, but for me.  I always left my appointment feeling better, even if there was no magic pill.  I had compassionate care again.

I’m on a 3-month schedule with the practice now and I had an appointment earlier this week.  There was a huge plumbing issue with the central line that affected my bathroom here at the motel, so I was running a hair late, but had enough time to get to my appointment if I drove fast and everyone does.  I get that I can’t see well, but I can drive better than the 20/20 crowd here and had my sclerals in, with enough lubricating ointment to make them somewhat tolerable, but it was like someone smeared Vaseline over the windshield.  The clinic is in a nearby town, so it’s a bit of a drive, but I can do it if I really try since it’s not in the direction of the sun.  What I didn’t expect was an accident on the arterial that leads to the freeway that created a backup for miles.

I called the clinic to let them know I’d be late due to the accident, but not more than 10 minutes, as everyone gives you a 10-minute grace period from my experience.  I was told that the doctor had to leave to meet with his lawyers and so I would have to reschedule.  I didn’t understand and had about gone through the wringer waking up earlier and getting ready and just driving.  I explained that I didn’t see the doctor—that I saw his nurse and I’d never been late.

It was then that the rude receptionist told me she was no longer at the practice.  It hit me like a ton of bricks, and she made up a lie as to why she was gone.  I knew I needed refills soon, so I was pleading with her, and she told me that I was talking in circles.  I just kept trying to be the squeaky wheel, but could hear my voice cracking and then hung up.  I was by a shopping center, so I pulled into the parking lot and just lost it.

How would I find my nurse?  Who could I talk to that would understand how complex chronic illness is?  Who would offer me compassionate care?  Certainly not anyone I currently see and not the doctor there.  My counselor, who is supposed to help me, has been putting me through the Inquisition for weeks and I rip the cuticle off my thumb in every session from the anxiety he’s causing me.  I felt abandoned, like I have felt my entire life.  The feelings about the former doctor disappearing came flooding back, as did everyone else in my life who had betrayed me: my family, my traitorous, best friends, the guys I had been with, the entire world.

I’m tired of this disease and the subsequent vision loss.  It’s been 12 years and there’s no hope.  The cure is not coming in my lifetime and the degeneration will continue—that much I know.  A million thoughts were flooding my mind and I went to a very dark place while sitting in my car, which is not uncommon—I’ve had enough and there is no meaning in my endless suffering.  I couldn’t breathe and was on the verge of having one of my major panic attacks.  I called the only person I know here—the one who gives me rides here and there—and asked that he take my cat, Moush Moush, but he wouldn’t.  I was begging him to take her to no avail and in the end, it was Moush Moush who saved me again, just like I am trying to do for her.  I promised her that I’d never leave her, and I won’t.

Very few people will understand this post.  A healthcare provider is someone most see for an infection or an injury or an acute condition that will either get better or kill you. There’s a gray area where those with chronic illnesses that steal your entire life live, and that’s my land.  I have staked a claim and it’s a lonely place that hurts my body and my mind. My nurse brought more light in, but now she is gone, like so many before her.

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ALL BARK & NO BITE: I JUST NEED A SPINAL X-RAY!

Photo Source: http://www.petsbest.com

I live in a weird city with weird people.  I also live in the ‘hood, which is an ethnically diverse mix of undesirables and makes it even more interesting.  It’s not the South Side of Chicago by any means.  The Southwestern U.S. was largely developed in the latter-half of the 20th century, so imagine rows of mid century, rundown strip malls filled with liquor stores, pupuserías, laundromats, payday loan shops, and taquerías jammed between big box stores and junkies roaming around every parking lot trying to hustle a buck off you.  Due to my low vision, lack of rides, and the sun setting later, I’m stuck attempting to drive during the day, which has forced me to access the medical care in this stellar part of town whenever possible.

I have needed an X-ray of my spine since I got sick 12 years ago, as I have a bizarre vertebra jutting out to the right in my lower cervical spine and mild scoliosis in my thoracic region, combined with unrelenting back pain from Ehlers-Danlos syndrome (EDS).  I finally got my new PM&R doctor to refer me to an imaging center and I found one within a mile of where I stay.  It is also the only place that takes appointments, so I wouldn’t have to sit for 3 hours, which really hurts.  I called and asked for the latest appointment, which was at 4 pm and the receptionist told me the X-rays would be taken at 4:30 pm—typical of how imaging centers work so that everything runs on schedule.

As I have difficulty filling out forms due to my vision, I picked them up a week prior so I could take my time and fill them out in the best light.  It took me about 1 hour to find the place as I can’t read building numbers or the signs that say what is in the buildings.  Just trying to drive is enough of a nightmare. After numerous attempts and driving in circles, I eventually went into the right building and found the center, but it was closed.  I tried another day and finally got the forms.  It’s part of life with keratoconus, so I didn’t make a big deal about it, although my low vision made me rather depressed that day.

This Friday, I had my appointment for the spinal X-ray.  I was running almost-on-time, but got there 1 minute late and had all the forms filled out already.  I gave the front desk woman the forms, with a brief explanation as to why I already had them, handed over the necessary cards, and was told I was after Barbie Big Boobs—a typical look in the ‘hood due to all the strippers and hookers—I mean escorts, and that it would just be 15 minutes or so.  Wonderful!  I didn’t have to wait 3 hours like I do at the eye doctor or would be doing at the walk-in imaging center across the street.

I wasn’t feeling well as I’d pulled several muscles that go from my ear down to my shoulder joint in my sleep (again) and my whole body aches chronically in general.  It’s all a typical day with EDS.  I just wanted to get the X-rays over with as I had to get my brake light fixed and then go to the pharmacy and blow more cash (again).  I also hadn’t slept much due to the steroids I’m on (again), which doesn’t help anyone out.  Yet, I complained to no one and had my smiley face on while I took my seat.

There was a woman in the waiting room I’ll call Misty, a creative, white-girl name like her real one, who was blabbing with her friend on her cell phone in a very loud and annoying voice and using words that were definitely not appropriate in a small, public place.  I could sort of make out her face and she looked like the dog above.  As a disclaimer, if your name is Misty, don’t take offense.  I know a woman named Tiffani—that is an i at the end—who is nothing like her name.

Suddenly, Misty got off her cell and began to yell at the front desk woman from her seat.  It appeared her complaint was that she had an appointment on Sunday for an MRI, but they had called to let her know there was an opening on Friday if she would like to reschedule.  Obviously she rescheduled, as she was sitting a few seats to my right.  She went on and on about how she was told her appointment was at 4 pm, not 4:30 pm. She told the front desk woman to, “tell the guy in the back to hurry up,” which the front desk woman stated she couldn’t do. She also added that the MRI of her back would take 2 hours and she couldn’t be there all day.  That’s amazing as I’ve had an MRI of my back done in 30 minutes or so.

She demanded to know who had told her to come in at 4 pm as she had stuff to do.  The woman calmly told her it was someone in scheduling.  Misty demanded she give her the phone number and she whipped out her cell phone again. She seemed to think her cell phone was akin to a Glock 9.

Someone must have answered in scheduling and Misty said she wanted the supervisor.  She abruptly had a calm, quasi-professional voice, aside from her confusion of past participles as she stated, “I wouldn’t have drove all the way over here to wait 30 minutes.”  It’s driven, Misty, driven!  She went on and on again about her predicament and was so infuriated that her appointment was really at 4:30 pm. She told the supervisor how the front desk woman would do nothing and wouldn’t even go to the back and tell the imaging guy to hurry up, despite her asking.  She had a fondness for ending every sentence with, “You know what I’m saying?” and there were a lot of uh-huhs on Misty’s part as the supervisor must have been trying to appease her. She just felt so special that someone was listening to her sob story.  Did it ever occur to her that she would be waiting 30 minutes on Sunday, as well, if she hadn’t rescheduled?

Now, I am one who often jumps into weird situations in this weird city in a “What Would You Do?” scenario, but I just decided to sit there with my finger in my ear in attempts to block out Misty’s ranting and hope the tech would soon be done with Barbie Big Boobs, who was also there for a spinal X-ray, presumably due to her Super Size implants causing an achy back or possibly her 6″ stripper boots throwing her off balance.  Poor thing.

I couldn’t help but take stock of my situation at that moment. How many hours of frustration did it take for me to get and fill out the forms due to my low vision?  While sitting in the waiting room, I wasn’t able to see the TV or read a magazine or do much of anything.  I still had a racing heart from driving there in daylight and pulling a U-turn on a major thoroughfare and praying there weren’t any oncoming cars that I couldn’t see.  I kept rubbing deep into the knots in my neck and shoulders and wishing that for once in 12 years the pain would stop.  I was worried about what else the X-rays might reveal, as I already have 2 troublesome spinal issues.  I spent over $13,000 USD on medical bills last year.  I live in a motel due to being broke, on disability, and other factors.  Unlike Misty, I have no friends to call on my cell phone, which is actually good as I don’t have many minutes. It’s not a smarty-pants phone and I don’t pretend it’s a Glock 9.  I wasn’t complaining to anyone about anything.  I just sat there in the distorted-looking room while forced to listen to Misty’s temper tantrum over nothing.

Finally, my name was called and I got changed and went into the X-ray room.  I had to pose in bizarre and uncomfortable positions over and over and then lie on a hard table that hurt my whole body while the tech continued to manhandle my achy self in order to straighten me out while my barely 100 lb, skin-and-bones body tried to stay covered in an XXL gown, which was all they provided.

If your female body is half-exposed due to being underweight from a genetic disorder that takes away your ability to eat and digest food and the gown doesn’t stay on because you’re 1/3 the size of the average American male, then that’s your own fault I guess, but I didn’t complain and I just kept trying to cover myself up while making a joke about it.  I am quite sure the imaging guy was disappointed he got stuck with short Olive Oyl after X-raying flirty Barbie Big Boobs with her head of platinum extensions and perky bustline.  I could be legally blind and spot all that.

I was finally done after 20 minutes or so and as I headed out, I could see that Misty was gone, unless she gave up the corner seat to go have a slim n’ sassy Misty cigarette. Apparently, the important stuff she had to do really was top priority.  I could only imagine what choice words she said on her way out.  The front desk woman was now blabbing on her own cell phone—such professionals here, but I needed to make sure the report was going to my referring doctor. She looked up my name and said it would be sent—all while her friend was on hold.  I told her I hoped she had a better day and was sorry she had to deal with Misty, which she appreciated, so I did my good deed for the day.

Here’s what I would love to know.  What was so tragic about Misty’s life that she had to throw a barking, hissy fit over something so idiotic and ruin everyone’s day?  Who doesn’t wait a minimum of 30 minutes for anything in the U.S.—especially when dealing with our healthcare system?  What gives anyone the right to talk to an innocent party in such a demeaning way and disturb an entire waiting room due to their need for attention?  This is not appropriate behavior and makes it harder for cordial patients, like me, to get treated with respect when I finally do find functional healthcare.  There are standards that are followed in any medical center and this issue didn’t warrant any complaints. Of course, there are times when it is necessary to take a firm stance to get things done, but this didn’t fit the bill and it’s not how a decent person takes care of business, regardless.

If the Mistys of the world really want something to complain about, they should walk in my shoes for a day.  I can only wear flats due to EDS, which may make it a little easier, but I doubt they would last even 10 minutes.  Bark, Misty, bark—it isn’t going to get you out of this one, either.

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