I had a REALLY bad day yesterday, which is saying a lot, after everything I’ve been through lately. It all started with a phone call from the neurosurgeon’s office. The receptionist was calling to tell me that my appointment for today had to be cancelled and rescheduled for September 5th.

This is the second time the appointment has been cancelled. I was originally supposed to see this doctor on the 21st.

The appointment is to determine whether or not I will be returning to work. Considering that school starts on September 4th, this cancellation has major consequences. I cannot go back to work without a note from the doctor. My stomach was in knots over this complication all day.

Then the mail came, and the knots in my stomach tightened. My HMO has denied coverage of my hospital stay (with the exception of the first day) because “the services are not medically necessary.”

I will appeal the decision, but don’t feel very hopeful. About anything. Once again, the rug has been yanked out from under my feet, and it’s getting harder and harder to pull myself back up.

Song of the Day: Bad Day by R.E.M.

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Today is my birthday. I am ffffffifty-three years old.  Gulp.

Happy birthday to me!

Song of the Day: It’s My Birthday by The Vandals

Ocean State of Mind

August 25, 2007

Before I move on to my vacation in Rhode Island, I’d like to thank everyone for the kind comments. Some of you made me laugh, and all of you touched my heart.

I’m still not feeling well. Yesterday morning, I was so sick I was seriously afraid I would have to go back to the hospital. It was vomiting this time (dry heaving, actually, but very violent and very painful), accompanied by a stupefying headache.

I just want to feel like a normal, healthy person. It’s hard for me to even remember what that’s like…

Now for the Rhode Island recap. The vacation gets a mixed review. In my previous entry, I hinted that I was under a bit of stress while I was away. The first stressful incident had to do with my daughter, Leigh.

She and I went up Saturday evening, and Rebecca joined us the following day. Leigh was supposed to stay until Tuesday, but Rebecca woke me up at midnight on Sunday to say that Leigh was leaving because of a telephone spat with her boyfriend.

This was alarming to me because Leigh had been experiencing mycoclonic seizures that day. (Leigh is an epileptic, and myocolonic seizures are brief, shock-like jerks of a muscle or a group of muscles.) The thought of her driving three hours alone in the dark along a route she was not familiar with did not sit well with me. I tried to convince her to at least wait until morning, but she was in quite a state, and couldn’t be reasoned with. (What else is new…)

Rebecca offered to go with her (and drive Leigh’s car). I was left alone and despondent.

My mother was due to arrive the next morning, so Rebecca planned to catch a ride back up with her grandmother. However, when the time came, she didn’t want to get up that early (after having driven until 3:00 a.m., I don’t blame her), so she made arrangements to come back later in the afternoon with a friend.

When she DID arrive, she realized she had left her car keys at home. (Just to clarify things – Rebecca drove Leigh’s car home, leaving her own vehicle in Rhode Island. She returned to RI in her friend’s car, but needed her keys to drive her own car home.)

Rebecca called her father, who had planned to come up for a day, anyway. He brought the keys on Friday, only a couple of hours before Becca had to go back. Phew. That was a close one.

Despite the situation described above, I would have to say that the major cause of my stress was my mother. Ay yi yi. She is the most contentious person I have ever known. She debated every single thing everybody said. You could tell her the sky is blue, and she’d say, “No it’s not. It’s brown.” I held a lot in, to avoid ugly confrontations, which would only have made things worse. My stomach was pretty much in knots the whole time due to things that happened, or in anticipation of what was to come.

Still, there were good days. The first fun thing we did was go to a powwow. While there, we were lucky enough to attend a service with the Native Americans in this church, which was rebuilt after it was set on fire about fifteen years ago.

Of course, I especially enjoyed our many hours spent on the beach, one day in particular, when the waves were bigger and wilder than usual.

Another thing I really enjoyed was surf fishing at the Charlestown Breachway, even though we didn’t catch anything. We did see a school of bluefish, but, by the time we got our poles rigged and into the water, they were gone. The sunset was spectacular, and we were happy to be there, even my mother.

On Wednesday, we went out on a charter fishing boat for a half-day of fluke fishing. When we first boarded the boat, my mother asked a mate, “What’s a fluke?” His reply: “A fluke is what it will be if you catch any fish.” Hah! I had a good laugh over that. The fluke, by the way, is more commonly known as summer flounder.

The conditions were pretty rough, and Rebecca’s friend was frightened and seasick. Becca and I had a great time, though. We both caught flukes, but only Rebecca’s was large enough to keep. (They have to be 19 inches.) Rebecca also caught a skate, and the mates had fun terrorizing her with the ugly thing.

Here’s a shot of Becca after the mates put the skate on her head. (The two of them were walking around with skates on THEIR heads, too, by the way.)

  

And here’s a close-up of the skate.

 

Another particularly stressful incident took place after we got off the boat. My mother didn’t want to drive, and Rebecca didn’t have the keys to her own car, so she drove my mother’s Saturn. When we got to the car after our fishing expedition, the car wouldn’t start. Rebecca had left the lights on, and the battery was dead.

Rebecca felt terrible (my mother is good at making people feel that way). The poor thing was in tears. I felt awful for Rebecca, and tried to tell her that these things happen, and I didn’t blame her, etc. I went to search for assistance, and ran into a man who had been on the fishing boat with us. Fortunately, he had jumper cables, and was able to get my mother’s car started.

On a more pleasant note, we had Rebecca’s fluke for dinner that evening, and it was delicious. Even Becca liked it, and she hates fish.

By the way, my mother forgot to turn the car lights off one evening (SNORT),  but the beeping sound alerted her before any more damage could be done. The sound is what you hear when a car door is open, or you haven’t fastened your seatbelt, which is why Rebecca didn’t recognize it as having anything to do with the lights. 

Here’s a shot of Rebecca reading and relaxing after four hours of fishing and a tense situation with a dead battery.

 

While Rebecca did her relaxing in the hammock, I did mine at the beach.

There was also a trip to the casinos at Foxwoods, a visit to the site of an old fort, a stroll through lovely Watch Hill (which included checking out the historic Flying Horse Carousel, and a brief shopping excursion), and a lobster dinner.

And so, my vacation is over. Soon, the summer will be, as well. I don’t know yet whether or not I’ll be returning to work on September 4th. That will be determined at my doctor appointment on the 29th. Unless he strongly recommends surgery, I have a feeling I will be going back to work. We really need the money.

In closing, I’ll leave you with a short video of some waves. Bear in mind that I was using my digital camera, so the quality isn’t the greatest. Still, it will be nice to have this on hand when I’m craving the sights and sounds of the seashore. Now, if only I could find a way to bottle the scent…

Song of the Day:  Waves by Phish

P.S.  Once again, WordPress is messing up my paragraphing.  I hate the way it looks, but don’t have it in me to keep trying to fix things, only to make them worse.

Foul Bowel

August 23, 2007

I expected my first entry after I got back from my vacation to actually be ABOUT my vacation, but fate had something else in store for me. Instead, I’ll be writing about my two-night hospital stay. It’s a long story, and it’s a doozy.

While I was away, my bathroom habits weren’t what I would have liked them to be, and, by Saturday, I was in quite a bit of discomfort. I had hoped that being home would be enough to get me back to normal, but those hopes were dashed when I was still unable to move my bowels by Sunday morning. I took a couple of Dulcolax, and went to visit my grandmother, who was recovering from a fall, which, by the way, required a trip by ambulance to the Emergency Room. She sprained her left knee and right ankle, and was pretty much bedridden the whole time I was gone.

While sitting there trying to have a conversation with her, I experienced cramping so severe it affected my back, made me sweat, and had me running for the bathroom every few minutes. I am not exaggerating when I tell you that the cramps felt like heavy labor pains. A couple of times, I felt like I was going to pass out. Still, I was not able to eliminate any stool. I was in agony, and had to leave my grandmother’s after only a short visit, and also had to bow out of my nephew’s birthday party.

Hours later, the Dulcolax finally took effect, and my frequent trips to the bathroom became more successful. I mistakenly thought that would be the end of my problem. However, Monday morning brought more of the same, so I made an appointment to see my primary care physician. He said acute abdominal pain requires immediate attention that he could not provide in his office, and sent me to the ER.

The first order of business was the IV insertion, which is something I always dread. After this most recent experience, I will dread it even more. The ER nurse made four attempts. First, she tried the inside of my right arm. Next, she tried the same spot again. Then she tried the inside of my left arm, and after that, she went for a vein on my right hand. Then she admitted defeat and called the IV Team for assistance.

The IV specialist tried to insert the IV in my left hand. That attempt was so painful it brought tears to my eyes, and my thumb was numb for hours. She then went back to the site of the very first attempt (the inside of my right arm). Success at last, after being stuck SIX times.

Even though I was pretty sure that the abdominal pain I was experiencing was related to my bowels, the ER doctor wanted to rule out gynecological problems. I did have similar pain years ago when ovarian cysts caused one of my ovaries to get twisted, so I agreed to a pelvic exam and ultrasound.

I had to be moved to another cubicle for the exam because the bed I was on wasn’t equipped with stirrups. After the exam, I was moved back to my original cubicle, and given some kind of contrast fluid to drink in preparation for a CAT scan to rule out diverticulitis. When my bladder was full, I was taken to radiology for the ultrasound. The technician mentioned that my bowels were pretty backed up. No kidding.

After the ultrasound, I was transported to the CAT scan area, but, because the scan couldn’t be performed until two hours after I started drinking the contrast fluid, I had to wait in the hall for quite a while. Once I was brought in for the scan, it was a piece of cake, and over quickly. I was then wheeled back to my cubicle in the ER.

When the doctor came in to go over the test results with me, she said, “I have some good news and some bad news.” The good news was that the pelvic exam and ultrasound indicated that I was in good gynecological shape, and, while the CAT scan did show diverticulosis (which I already knew about after last year’s colonoscopy), there was no evidence of diverticulitis. The bad news was that she didn’t know what was causing my pain, and therefore, didn’t want to send me home. It was the ER doctor’s recommendation that I be admitted, so she put in a call to my primary care physician to get the necessary admission orders.

I arrived at the ER at 11:30 am. By the time I was set up in a hospital room, it was after 7:00 pm. After a visit from Daniel, I watched some television, and went to sleep around 10:00. I was awakened at 1:00 am by the arrival of my roommate, who was accompanied by her husband and two young sons. They stayed for quite a while, and made a lot of noise. I didn’t get much more sleep after they left because a lab technician woke me at 5:00 am to take some more blood.

This hospital stay was very unpleasant. For one thing, there were problems with the food I was served. At first, I was on a clear liquids diet, and then bumped up to full liquids, but they kept bringing me the wrong food, so I was eating very little. The unit office manager became aware of the situation, and frequently checked in with me to make sure I was getting everything I needed.  She grew increasingly frustrated and “pissed off” (her words) when she repeatedly saw that I was NOT getting everything I needed. In fact, she was so appalled over everything that was going wrong (too many things for me to recall or recount here, even if I did remember), she brought me flowers!

She also left me her card and told me to call her whenever there was a problem, but I have this idiosyncrasy about not wanting to bother people, so I did not contact her. Instead, I kept things bottled up inside.

My suppressed emotions came to a head Wednesday morning. The night before, I had again been awakened from my sleep. This time, it was because of my roommate’s television. Patients are supposed to use headphones for TV viewing at night, but this woman was very inconsiderate, and behaved as if she were in a private room.

There was a nurse in the roommate’s curtained section of the room when I woke up, so I waited a bit to see if the nurse would tell my roommate she should be using the headphones. When that didn’t happen, I turned MY television on, and tuned in to a channel that had no picture, and just played classical music. I figured if I had to listen to TV noise, it should at least be something I could fall asleep to.

The next thing I knew, the nurse had entered my space, and, without saying a word to me, she reached for my headphones and plugged them into my TV set. I sat up and loudly announced that the only reason I turned my TV on was to drown out the sound of my roommate’s television, which had disrupted my sleep. The nurse said she would tell my roommate that she had to use her headphones. Sleep was fleeting after that, because my blood was boiling.

Another example of my roommate’s inconsiderateness was that she never removed her “hat” (a plastic container with a wide rim that sits across the bowl of the toilet, and is used to measure urine output). The first time I found my roommate’s “hat” on the toilet, I rang for a nurse who was very snippy with me, and suggested that, in the future, I should just wait for them to deal with it during their rounds, which she assured me were frequent enough that I wouldn’t have to wait long. I tried to follow her suggestion the next time I had to urinate, but, after waiting for over an hour, I armed myself with paper towels, and tackled the problem myself. This experience was repeated twice more during a course of two hours. (I had to pee frequently because of the fluids that were being pumped into me through the IV.)

Later on, another nurse was in the room for one reason or another, and I mentioned the “hat” situation to her. She became very defensive, and huffily declared that she and/or the “tech” (I think that’s what they’re calling nurse’s aids nowadays) checked the hats routinely. My response was, “Be that is it may, the fact remains that I had to remove my roommate’s hat from the toilet THREE TIMES IN THE PAST TWO HOURS. Furthermore, my yearly bloodborne pathogen training makes me aware of the HIV and hepatitis risks I am being exposed to by performing this task without gloves. Perhaps you could leave some in the bathroom to decrease the risks associated with exposure to my roommate’s bodily fluids.” Of course, my sarcastic request for gloves was not granted.  And I still had to remove my roommate’s “hat” almost every time I used the bathroom.

Anyway, back to the morning my pent up emotions erupted. My primary care physician dropped by at 7:30 am to let me know that I was being discharged, and the IV could be removed. My reaction to this good news was, “Thank God!” A breakfast tray was placed on my table at 8:30. There was a bowl of cream of wheat (so sticky it looked like glue), a carton of milk, and a cup of coffee. Before I had a chance to eat anything, the tech came in and said that, since I was being discharged, it might be possible for me to get a regular breakfast. I hadn’t eaten anything except one container of jello, and couple of small Italian ices since Sunday, so a real breakfast sounded pretty good to me. The tech went off to look into it.

Shortly after he left, my roommate asked if I had her tray, because the tray that had been delivered to her had my name on it. I checked my tray, and, sure enough, it had her name on it. This mistake could have had serious consequences considering that I was supposed to be on a lactose free diet, and was given a tray that included a container of milk.

By the time the tech came back to tell me that my diet orders hadn’t been changed, and I couldn’t have regular food after all, the cream of wheat was ice cold and even more inedible than it was upon delivery. So, I went without breakfast.

At 10:00, I pressed my buzzer, and asked if I could take a shower. The tech came in with towels, and I requested that my IV be removed before I got in the shower. He went to check, and came back to say that the nurse advised him to wrap my arm in plastic. I asked if the nurse knew that I was being discharged, and didn’t need the IV any more. He snapped, “I don’t know. Do you want it wrapped or not?” I was so taken aback by his nastiness that I was temporarily rendered speechless. Not knowing what else to say or do, I told him to go ahead and wrap it.

I was too upset to go to the shower (which was located a fair distance from my room), so I just sat on my bed, feeling overwhelmed. The unit manager walked in, took one look at me, and said, “Oh no. What did they do now?” I burst into tears, and found it difficult to speak at first, but, once I started, I let it all out. I reviewed the problems she already knew about, and filled her in on the more recent issues of which she was not yet aware. To finalize the unloading of my burden, I gestured at the whiteboard on the wall, and blurted out, “And just look at that! That doesn’t exactly inspire confidence in the people who are in charge of my medical care!”

This is what I was referring to:

For the record, I checked the whiteboard on my roommate’s side of the room and saw that Wednesday was misspelled there, as well.

The unit office manager called for a volunteer and instructed her to go to every room on the floor and correct the spelling errors. Then she asked me a question about my discharge. I exclaimed, “I don’t know! Since I was admitted, no one has told me a single thing about what’s happening. I don’t know anything!” She looked me in the eye and said “Yes you do. You know how to spell.” I burst out laughing, and she smiled and said, “Good. At least I was able to make you laugh.” She then arranged to have my IV removed, and had someone escort me to the shower. This woman was truly an angel of mercy.

Before I was discharged, I met with a nutritionist who gave me information on high fiber and lactose free diets. Then my mother came to pick me up. She took me out to lunch, and, let me tell you, I enjoyed every bite of my omelet and side salad. Food tastes indescribably delicious when you haven’t eaten in a few days.

To sum things up, the diagnosis was Irritable Bowel Syndrome, which I already knew I had. However, I’ve never been through an episode like this one. While I was in the hospital, they took blood to check for lactose intolerance (hence, the lactose-free diet) and Celiac Disease, but the tests had to be done off-site, and the results are still out. As I mentioned above, I was given information about a high fiber diet, and will be following those directions. Because of the IBS, I was cautioned against taking laxatives, and advised to take colace (a stool softener), instead.

I was able to move my bowels a wee bit this morning, but I’m still in a great deal of discomfort. This has been a pretty bad experience. Just writing about it has taken a lot out of me. Unfortunately, what it’s taken out of me isn’t what needs to be eliminated, if you get my drift.

I’m really tired and uncomfortable, so I’m going to try to get some rest. When I feel up to it, I’ll post an entry about my vacation, which I believe was partly responsible for my hospitalization. I’ll leave you with a hint: Irritable Bowel episodes can be triggered by stress.

Song of the Day: Take Me to the Hospital by The Faint

Before I leave for my vacation on the beach at Rhode Island, here’s a reminder for Mary.

See you on the flip side!

Song of the Day: Lay Your Hands (Off My Man) by Vaya Con Dios

Wrapped Up in Red Tape

August 10, 2007

I had an appointment with the neurosurgeon on Tuesday to go over the results of the myelogram. Most notably, the films show that the spine surgeon “took a lot of bone” when he performed the discectomy three years ago.

I’m not sure what that means, and Dr. M didn’t elaborate. Instead, he referred me to his associate, Dr. C, who specializes in lumbar fusions. Apparently, Dr. M’s specialty is brain surgery. I felt like I was in need of his special services after hearing that tidbit of information… Your guess is as good mine as to why I’ve been seeing him instead of his partner… Anyway, I have an appointment with Dr. C on the 21st.

My comp hearing took place on Wednesday. What a complete waste of time that was. Instead of a judge, a conciliator was in attendance. All my attorney did was request a hearing with a judge. I didn’t say a single word, and it was over in two minutes. Now I have to wait to find out when the real hearing will take place – probably in 4 to 5 weeks. Very heavy sigh.

I’m leaving for Rhode Island tomorrow, and will be away until the following Friday. I can’t wait to get out of here, away from all the bureaucratic BS.

See you when I get back.

Song of the Day: Red Tape by Agent Provocateur

Creature Feature

August 6, 2007

Apparently, the bats have spread the message that our house is a good place for freeloaders to set up residence. We can now add mice to our unwelcome guest list.

Daniel came across a baby yesterday, and I ran into the mama today. Baby was trapped in a butterfly net and removed to the back yard, but mama got away.

I don’t like having to worry about critters scurrying across the floor in front of me (or flying around over my head, for that matter) every time I step into a room.

Furthermore, recent wildlife sightings in my back yard include woodchucks, a mama and baby deer, a skunk, and a raccoon. A couple of months ago, a bear was seen (and photographed) on the road at the end of my street.

For the record, I live in the city, not the country.

This is getting ridiculous.

Song of the Day: Worst Comes to Worst by Bats and Mice (That’s a real band!)

Ice For My Head

August 1, 2007

After months of relief (which is highly unusual), I had dared to hope that the worst of all my ailments might never darken my doorstep again. I’m talking about Scary Headache Syndrome.

Unfortunately, the headaches are back. With a vengeance.

To add insult to injury, my coffeemaker died yesterday morning. I was afraid I would have to deal with a caffeine withdrawal headache on top of the scary headache, but Daniel came to the rescue and got me a cup of coffee from the corner store. Phew. One crisis averted.

It doesn’t end there, though. I also have a very itchy rash from the horribly invasive Bishop’s weed that runs rampant over our property. The itch drove me crazy our first summer in this house, but I managed to avoid it last year. Sadly, I wasn’t as lucky this summer. 

I did an Internet search to see if I could find any suggestions on how to relieve the itch, or stop the rash from spreading. This site recommends careful handling of the plant “as the sap may bring about a skin rash or irritation that can be very serious and painful… If symptoms occur after contact with plant, call your local Poison Control Center. ” Geez.

I’m not the only one who’s suffering. Our doxie, Penny Lane, is going through a false pregnancy.

The fun never ends around here.

Song of The Day: Headache by Sublime

This song is dedicated to whatever is causing my scary headaches:

Sometimes it’s just so hard
To put up with you
I’ve come to rely on a pill or two
‘Cause you cause me such pain
Why does it act this way?
I’m so frustrated with everything
Won’t you be nice?
Bring some ice for my head?