Tag Archives: Health

That Girl Ain’t Right in Her Brain…

jumping-brain-greenLet me tell you what hap…..look, a squirrel…happened to…Is it lunch time?

I ended 2012 in a quiet way.  I started New Year’s Eve alone in a motel room, lazily sleeping in.  I was wrapping up a 2 week visit to the frozen Midwest to celebrate the holidays with family.  I stood in the hotel bathroom…trying to decide – jacuzzi bath or quick shower…jacuzzi bath or quick shower.  I had indulged in the jacuzzi bath the previous evening because I am old and the cold weather made everything hurt so much.  My skin, unaccustomed to a fortnight of the dry heated air of my former homeland, was becoming flaky and scaly.  So I opted for a steamy shower…to be followed with a slathering of assorted concoctions forbidden by the airlines to be transported in my carry on, in an effort to restore some semblance of moisture to my skin.

While shampooing my hair, I was suddenly assaulted with a stinging spray of scalding hot water…I reached down, eyes closed, to adjust the shower temperature and – WHACK…smacked my head on a shelf in the shower designed to be a permanently affixed soap dish.  I didn’t knock myself out or anything, but I definitely saw stars and swayed a little bit, suds streaming into my eyes.  I steadied myself and finished the shower – a tiny goose egg appearing at my left temple at the hairline.

I finished my final family visit, returned the rental car, and flew home.  As much as I hate flying, I have to say that my flights went extremely smoothly.  I arrived home shortly before midnight, and welcomed the New Year with an embrace from my loving Sweet Cheeks and was nearly knocked over by my fluffy 95 pound fur-kid, so complete was her joy at seeing me again.  All was right with the world.  Life is good.

The next day, while watching an endless stream of forgettable bowl games, I realized I couldn’t read the scores on the television screen.  Thinking my glasses were dirty, I cleaned them repeatedly – but the situation did not improve.  I awoke at 3:00 am with a screaming headache unlike any I had ever experienced.  I’ve had migraines for years and this was definitely not a migraine.  I drug myself to work.  I obsessively cleaned my glasses, trying to get my vision to clear up.  The headache raged on, and I developed a sensitivity to light that required me to stay in my office with the blind pulled and the lights off.  I noticed a difficulty with concentration, and a feeling that something was just not right…but my brain did not connect the dots.  Half of my time was spent thinking something was wrong and the other half spent thinking everything was all right, sometimes in the same minute.  I remembered hitting my head, but somehow really couldn’t understand the severity of the situation.  Or figure out what to do.

On Friday I had some tests scheduled, and was feeling even more strange.  My headache raged on, and I developed double vision.  I had driven myself to the testing center, but the receptionist could see that I was struggling and suggested I call my doctor.  I managed to get myself home.  I e-mailed the boss and told her I couldn’t make it in to work.  I called the doctor and explained the situation.  Their office was full of patients with flu-like symptoms and they couldn’t squeeze me in.  They instructed me to get to their walk-in clinic for evaluation.  A physician examined me and wanted to get a CT scan to make sure I didn’t have a bleed going on in my brain.  He tried getting me into their imaging center, but it was too late in the day and he didn’t want to wait over the weekend.  He directed me to the Emergency Room, and called ahead to explain what was needed.

Over an 8 hour period, the first part spent with my head under a blanket trying to block out the sights, bright lights, and piercing screeches of the unwashed multitudes that gather in a hospital ER on a Friday night, I waited to find out if there was anything untoward going on in my skull.  More than usual, I mean.  There is always something untoward going on in my skull, which at that time felt as if it would explode.  I was finally moved to the “quiet room”.  The one where family members usually receive bad news.  In the dark, we waited and waited…

My husband, never a patient man under the best of circumstances, wheedled, agitated, advocated, demanded, and issued mildly worded veiled threats to move the overwhelmed and understaffed personnel to obtain a CT scan, read the CT scan, and see to my situation.  For nearly 8 hours he pushed the limits of acceptable behavior in order to achieve his mission.

brain2

The good news – there was no bleeding going on in my skull.  The bad news – I had likely sustained a concussion from the blow to the head and was experiencing post-concussive syndrome.  The symptoms – vision disturbances, memory issues, headaches, inability to concentrate, issues with problem solving – can last for weeks, or even longer.

So, it pains me to say that I’ll not be able to quarterback any football teams…I won’t likely write an award-winning novel this week, and I may even forget to put on underwear.  On the bright side – I can’t concentrate for very long on the sad and depressing things that had brought my blogging to an abrupt stop last month.  I’ve got some drafts I may pull out but mostly I’m going to try to get myself…oh, look…a sandwich!!!

Maybe I’ll be like Mama Cass.  It was rumored (and she even stated in an interview with Rolling Stone) that her voice was changed after being hit on the head with a piece of pipe and suffering a concussion.  Maybe I WILL write an award-winning novel…what was I saying?

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Stuck in the Middle (Age) with You

I seem to be mired in a deep rut these days.  The sides are slippery and I feel like even if I could climb out of it, there is a deep sink hole waiting to swallow me up just outside this rut.  So maybe I’ll stay right here.  This is that crazy time “Middle Age”*** – can’t quite pull off young and not yet ready for the retirement home.  Somewhere between having to worry about birth control and funeral arrangements.  Here are ten truths I’ve discovered about middle age:

1.  I had it good back in the day.

But I didn’t know it.  I thought I was fat. Now I am all set for the next famine.  I had boundless energy.  Now I can barely lift the remote.  I could play poker all night, work all day, and sling meals effortlessly. Now I can barely make reservations.  I managed a household on top of a full time job and 2 robust and active boys.  Now I manage to get from the bed to work to the couch and call it a good day.

Someone is bound to notice this hairdo.

2.  Beauty is a full time job.

In my younger days, I could still turn a few heads (especially if those heads had been drinking).  Getting dolled up meant enhancing my natural assets with a touch of mascara and lip gloss.  Now I fill wrinkles with spackle and cover age spots with a thick layer of “age defying” shellac. Even industrial strength hair coloring cannot cover what is growing out of my head, and my chin hairs are alarming in both their length and strength.  My moustache is envied by Justin Bieber.  I’d give myself a pedicure if I could reach (or even see) my toes.  But I don’t know why I bother because…

3.  You become invisible.

Somewhere around 43 or 44 you will become invisible – no matter how beautiful (or loud, or funny) you are.  Children are cute, youngsters are hip and savvy.  Oldsters are entitled to respect and senior discounts.  You are just there – sort of – if anyone even notices.  All those things you thought you’d do if you were invisible – not happening.

20120310 Amazon motorized scooter

 I traded my roller blades for this (Photo credit: kbrookes)

4.  Half the distance takes you twice as long. 

I can no longer open jars by myself, my eyesight is failing faster than my vision insurance covers new lenses, and my teeth are wearing down.  I have fillings older than many billionaire CEO whippersnappers and they are working loose at an alarming rate (the fillings – not the CEOs).  My joints are achy and any rapid movements could land me in traction.  While I don’t yet need a hover-round, I am not exactly zipping about on foot, either.  I’ve traded sexy shoes for comfortable ones.  I spend 2 hours a day on exercise – an hour dreading it, half an hour trying to talk myself into it (by promising myself a bowl of ice cream afterward), and 30 minutes letting the dog drag me down the sidewalk.

5.  Your brain will let you down.

I can’t remember things.  Except at 3:00 a.m.  Then I remember the name I couldn’t recall when I saw that old acquaintance today.  I remember what I meant to get at the grocery store but couldn’t remember where I left my list.  I remember birthdays on the day of – too late to send a card, but if I’m lucky, not too late to call or Skype, if I could remember where my cell phone is or remember my Skype password.  I remember to feed the dog when she begins gnawing on my leg.  Then I remember I meant to get dog food.

6.  Your life is filled with wonder.

You wonder why bad things happen to good people.  You wonder how many times a heart can break.  You wonder how a One Minute Manager can make 8 hours seem like a year.  You wonder why liars, abusers, thieves, perverts, killers and other rat-bastards get to breathe the same air as the most innocent child.  You wonder if you’ve done enough with your life.  You wonder what you did to deserve the bounty you’ve been given.  You wonder why monogamy seems so hard for so many.  You wonder if you’ll be remembered for your wit or your chocolate chip cookies, or for walking around with your skirt tucked up in your pantyhose.  You wonder why it takes 10 minutes to consume a pan of brownies but 7 hours on the treadmill to get rid of them.  You wonder where in the hell you left your car keys.

7.  You have enemies.

Time, insomnia, karma, and gravity.

8.  You start hanging out with well-educated rich people.

Pharmacists, orthopedists, ophthalmologists and MDs.

9.  Your roles change.

Your children are grown, even if they still live in the basement.  You’ve imparted all the lessons you’re gonna give ‘em –  they still know more than you (for a few more years, at least).  Your parents are off enjoying their retirements and spending your inheritance.  They’ve imparted all the lessons they’re gonna give you and they still know more than you (for a few more years, at least).  You get to worry about both and can control neither.

10.  This is the time of your life.

You’ve done a lot of hard work.  You watch your children work to find their way in this world, and you remember the journey.  You know who you are and what you are.  You’ve seen enough to know what is coming down the road…if you live long enough you’ll lose family members, friends, acquaintances and co-workers to disease or accidents.  You enjoy the health you have left, even as you feel it slipping away.  You will never again be as young as you are today.  Youth and beauty may be leaving you in the dust, but you know that experience, wisdom and treachery trump all that, anyway.

***I am middle-aged if my life expectancy is 114.

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Ladies of the Lamp – My Nurses

English: Nurses on the Army Hospital Ship Reli...

English: Nurses on the Army Hospital Ship Relief in 1898 while serving off of Cuba, US Navy Historical Center Photograph NH 92846 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“I’m here for my spa day,” I tell the nurse who checks me in before surgery.  We are in a private little room with a television.  My husband has taken off to forage for breakfast.  I am only a little nervous.  I know too much to not be a little nervous.

“Fabulous.  You’ll love our luxurious treatments.  First, a warm body scrub.”  She hands me 2 packets of warmed chlorhexidine towelettes.  “Wipe yourself down completely with these.  Well, not completely – don’t use them on your face, or genitals.”

“Ahhh…” I say.  “Everything but the important parts.”

“Yep.  Everything but the important parts. When your husband gets here he can do your back.”  She hands me the requisite hospital gown, replete with snaps that don’t snap, ties that won’t tie, and a shortage of fabric that will undoubtedly leave little to the imagination for any one walking the halls behind me.  “Opening in the back. I’ll help you if he doesn’t get back soon.”  She is all-business, but gentle.  Her eyes are kind, her touch light.  She is one of my own – a colleague, a peer, a professional.

My surgeon is ahead of schedule.  I am taken to the pre-op holding area.  I am introduced to my new nurse.  She stands at the foot of my bed with a rolling computer.  After introducing herself, she turns to the computer, leans on it.  She spends the next 10 minutes talking with a colleague about non-nursing, non-surgical, nonsensical stuff – where she bought what, where she went and with whom, “We should get together” type bullshit.  I try to remain calm.  I know my lucid time is drawing to an end and I want to make sure everything is in order – I clear my throat – repeatedly.  I want to feel safe in her care.  She turns to me, irritated, and I remind myself: she is a colleague, a peer, and at last she remembers she is a professional…

Somewhere along the line, it has come out that I am not only a nurse, but a nursing instructor.  I do not usually offer this information, I don’t want my caregivers feeling nervous about providing care, or to have the feeling they are being evaluated for each skill they perform.  Some nurses had horrible experiences with nursing instructors – I just want what everyone wants – the best care each nurse can give.

Another nurse starts my IV.  Hands are washed and sanitized appropriately. Information is reviewed, questions asked and answered. My skin is prepped, all precautions taken.  The IV catheter slides in painlessly; the dressing is applied expertly.  If she is the least bit nervous it does not show – she is calm and competent.  Her demeanor is calming, supportive, gentle and sincere.  She is one of my own – a colleague, a peer, a professional.

A nurse-anesthestist student introduces herself.  She will be assisting with the induction of anesthesia.  She is bubbly and smiling.  I am at a teaching hospital.  I know students, residents, and interns will be on the care team.  I have signed papers that I know and understand this fact.  I am okay with students; we are all learners at some point.  She asks a few questions about prior surgeries and experiences with anesthesia.  She does not examine me other than to ask me to stick out my tongue.  My nervousness ratchets up a notch or two, but I cannot put my finger on a reason, just a general sense of foreboding.  She promises to come see me in the recovery room…She is one of my own:  a colleague, a peer, a professional.

I wake up in the recovery room.  Something is wrong – horribly wrong.  My face is swollen, my lip is throbbing, and I have a breathing tube in my mouth.  I cannot speak.  A new nurse – with a round, sweet face and smooth voice urges me to relax and not fight the tube.  She will call to have someone remove it as soon as it determined I am breathing well on my own.  I try to relax but my worst nightmare is being realized.  I do not want a breathing tube…I do not want a respirator.  I try to modulate my breathing but my diaphragm will not relax.  I cannot suck air in.  I hear and feel the respirator breathe for me and I cringe.  She wipes the tears from my face and calls the anesthesia team.  They are tied up in surgery, she tells me.  Everything will be all right, she tells me.  She wipes more tears and stands beside my bed.  Together we work on my breathing – timing my efforts, using accessory muscles, relaxing.  I am groggy, struggling, but we make progress. She does not leave my side for a very long time. When she does, it is to harangue the respiratory team to come remove the tube.  I hear her on the phone.  She is firm, insisting they not leave me on the machine any longer than necessary.  My patient advocate.  She is one of my own:  a colleague, a peer, a professional.

The nurse-anesthetist student stands over me…finally.  She is no longer bubbly, or smiling.  “Your intubation was extremely difficult,” she states flatly.  “You’ll be getting a letter from the anesthesia department informing you of how to better prepare for future surgeries or emergencies.  We left the tube in to make sure we had an airway in case you couldn’t breathe on your own.”  I watch her deflate the cuff of the endo-tracheal tube.  She pulls it away from my mouth and I feel the tube tearing out of my throat, which is raw and has a metallic, bloody taste.  I cannot swallow.  I can barely breathe. My face feels more swollen and my lip is bloodied. I feel inadequate, blame-worthy – like I didn’t hold up my end of the bargain.  I feel small and worthless.  I ask myself “Is she really one of my own?”  A colleague?  A peer?  A professional?

I am taken to my room.  I am handled ever so gently.  My pain is addressed – my breathing, still shallow and ragged, keeps setting off alarms.  My oxygen levels are low.  Some of my nurses sit with me while I use my incentive spirometer to increase my lung function and expand my lungs.  I can pitifully only do about as much as a newborn infant.  But we keep at it, making progress in miniscule increments.  The aides check my vital signs and print out strips.  I ask what the strips are for.  “The docs and residents see these – they are posted on your chart.”  I notice they only print the strips after my breathing exercise, when my numbers are good.  I ask about this.  I wonder aloud if my surgeon knows that my breathing is such an issue 98% of the time or if he only sees the “good strips”.  My diaphragm is stiff, non-cooperative.  When I try to breathe in it stiffens, instead of lowering to expand my lungs, it constricts.  It will not relax.  But I continue to make progress.

In the wee morning hours before I am to be discharged – I awaken in a panic.  My monitor is beeping wildly.  My oxygen levels are very, very low.  My nose is completely stuffed up – there is no oxygen going into my airway through the nasal canula they have applied, and very little breath through my ravaged throat.  I call for my nurse.  She is a long time coming, even though I have told her over the intercom that I cannot breathe.  She checks the monitor – then silences it – at one point she turns the noisy machine off.  She replaces the nasal canula.  I tell her I cannot breathe through my nose.  She turns the oxygen up a little.  I tell her I need an oxygen mask.  I again take the canula from my nostrils and place it across my open mouth.  At least the oxygen will get in that way.  My diaphragm is stiff once again, non-compliant with my attempts to inhale deeply, or even shallowly for that matter.  She tells me I am not trying – that I need to relax.  I tell her I cannot relax when I cannot breathe.  She leaves the room – with me sitting on the edge of the bed, oxygen tubing in my mouth, praying I don’t pass out.  She returns and makes an elaborate show of calling Respiratory for a face mask.  She is loud, abrasive, demanding.  Apparently, Respiratory is not inclined to help her out.  She calls another floor – someone delivers a face mask within minutes and I am breathing better. She asks if there is anything else I need…as if she has done some supreme favor for me…I haven’t the strength nor the breath to deal with this woman at this point.  I remember that I am a colleague…a peer…and a professional.

I am home and recovering from my recent ordeal.  As I reflected on the nursing care I received – the nursing care I will be asked to evaluate by means of patient survey – I was reduced to tears several times.  Writing this post has been gut-wrenching.  Certain nurses have already been commended by me to the hospital’s Quality Assurance nurses who visited me during my admission.  Most were excellent.  Some not.  Those nurses, as well, have been or will be addressed.

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There is Good News…and There is Bad News (Part 2)

Good News and Bad News

Good News and Bad News (Photo credit: Mike Licht, NotionsCapital.com)

Well, sorry dear readers, I did not mean to keep you hanging there, but I was so tired and it was after midnight when I posted (There is Good News…and Bad News Part 1) in the wee hours of yesterday morning.  After an astounding 3 1/2 hours of sleep and one migraine headache,

Migraine Barbie has Snapped!

Migraine Barbie has Snapped! (Photo credit: Deborah Leigh (Migraine Chick))

followed by a long and semi-productive day at the office, and the opening of an IRA (at the credit union which readily accepts my paycheck but informed me I am not a member) to avoid having to send my least favorite relative, Uncle Sam, any of my hard earned cash – I am ready to complete my delivery of the news.  That sentence, right there folks, is deserving of a grammatical “time out” and a mandatory three-post probation.  Since I am too lazy to rewrite it, I plead guilty and will not appeal the maximum sentence…

Uncle Sam BW

Uncle Sam BW (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Good News is…I now know what is wrong with me.

The Bad News is:  I now know what is wrong with me.

The first diagnosis, delivered by an actual doctor (Dr. Mack the Knife), is that I am suffering from an intra-thoracic stomach.  This explains why, over the past 1 1/2 years, I have had extreme, painful, doubling-over, hurty, moaning, need-to-throw-up-but-can’t pain during meals.  At least 1/2 of my stomach is above the diaphram and is residing in the place where my heart and lungs are supposed to live.  In addition, the stomach above the diaphragm has a slight twist to it.  So, in typical k8edid fashion, at a time when every other body part I own has drifted obscenely SOUTH, my stomach has migrated north of the border.  All this can, of course, be surgically repaired if I want to, say, ever eat a real meal again.  Until then I am forced to consume small meals consisting of preferably soft or liquid foods (Ummm, Wendy’s Frosty anyone?).  Fortunately for me, I can live on peanut butter cups, milkshakes, ice cream, lobster bisque, Riesling, and creme brulee’ indefinitely.

Logo of NPR News.

Logo of NPR News. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The second diagnosis was delivered by NPR.  In a broadcast discussion of marital issues and health problems facing retiring baby-boomers, I was intrigued by the mention of this disorder:  Retired Husband Syndrome.  Wikipedia (that fortress of knowledge for all things medical) describes RHS thusly:  It is a condition where a woman begins to exhibit signs of physical illness and depression as her husband reaches, or approaches, retirement.  Symptoms can include depression, rash, asthma, high blood pressure and ulcers.  The phenomenom has been studied in Japan where Japanese physicians estimate that as many as 60 percent of wives of retired men suffer to some extent from “RHS.”

In this article from the archives of the National Institute of Health, Dr. Charles Clifford Johnson, MD identified the syndrome and wrote in 1984:  I have frequently heard wives rage with such allegations as, “I am going nuts,” “I want to scream,” “He is under my feet all the time,” “He is driving me crazy,” “I’m nervous” or “I can’t sleep.” These emotional statements are  frequently associated with symptoms such as tension headaches, depression, agitation, palpitations, gas, bloating, muscle aches and so forth. (Not to be confused with symptoms following a visit to the drive thru at Taco Bell).

This  (RHS – not Taco Bell) would explain the remainder of my symptoms.  My husband is retired.  He has had a couple of jobs since retiring, but they were not really what he wanted and therefore….he is home.  All day.  All freakin’ day.  If I were home all day with him, one of us would probably be incarcerated.  My job, and the soul-sucking commute, and the fact that he escapes to his “man cave” when I am home are probably the only things keeping me alive (and living outside the razor wire) today.

So, if I have surgery  I will have to stay home all day to recuperate with YOU KNOW WHO.  Pass me the lobster bisque, will ya?

Red Lobster – Lobster Bisque Recipe

A bowl of lobster bisque

A bowl of lobster bisque (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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Barium – It’s What’s For Breakfast

image

This was a week of good news and bad news.  The good news: I get to keep my gall bladder.  A diseased gall bladder would have been a great answer to the question “What is causing those hideous abdominal pains I get when I eat?”  The bad news:   there still is no answer to that question.  So more tests are ordered (directly proportional to the quality of your insurance coverage, I have come to believe).

Thence, the aforementioned breakfast entree:  Barium sulfate suspension.  Tastes every bit as delightful as it sounds, even the fake Mochaccino flavoring added was not much of an improvement I fear – it was like drinking flavored phlegm.  Two bottles of it after an 8 hour fast, and no morning coffee.  Only one husband was partially decaptitated before the procedure was complete and my natural balance (caffeinated and fed) was restored. 

The nuclear med tech, Gene, “offered” me yet another large styrofoam cup of the radioactive nectar before placing me on the CT scan table.  I say “offered”  euphemistically because he made it clear that it was not really optional.  I forgave him, though, because he had beautiful green eyes like my beloved Sweet Cheeks, a soft and soothing voice, AND he inserted an IV into my right arm without my even feeling him do so.  As he predicted, I felt as though I was peeing my pants when the contrast injected into the IV reached my bloodstream.  And as he predicted, I really did not pee my pants.

I breathed when the machine told me to breathe, held my breath when instructed to do so, and only briefly looked into the little window that housed the laser – even though a warning posted directly below it warned me not to.  I am certain my retinas will return to normal at some point.

I am awaiting the results and will meet with my surgeon Dr. Mack (the Knife) next week.

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