Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Triage in the face of Pain and Uncertainty

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In preparation to determine the "next steps" for my recovery, like starting to bear weight through my leg to see if it is doing ok and help it build bone, I sent my notes to my doctor in Chicago, including mark ups of my X-rays to check in on my concerns following this latest surgery.

Even after  doing this so many times, there are times I get overwhelmed by the complexity, primitiveness of my remedies, and multiple body parts that keep getting involved and increasingly compete. Sometimes, I spontaneously burst into tears.  I get confused and frustrated as to which joint I am primarily concerned with at that moment. It is all a rotating circle of hell at times. In the last 12 months I have had 3 significant ortho surgeries on three different body parts, and have an impending eye surgery (4th body part) in a couple months. New, non-ortho related diagnoses this year have been wrecking havoc on my medical project manager ability.

I have to remember that the hip surgery is my most important, has the biggest risk and implication for my long term functionality, and most problematic.  If there are problems everything else will be tossed and we will focus on hip.  I certainly hope not. I look at that Xray and cringe and wonder ... how is this going to work? Forget the picture, it is also, how it feels, the pain, and strange crunching sounds that concern me.

 Working with a new remote team has added to the stress level – it adds time, new communication challenges, and stretches the patience. I have forgotten what it is like to start afresh and mostly afar with a team I have no track record with. I have worked with the Steadman Clinic since 2000, (yikes, that is 15 years) and know the staff, their various protocols, and where I can push the envelope. No track record leaves me "stress testing" the system for what works and doesn't work, and what can bend or not.  My coordination with a local Dr fell flat. (He really didn't want to get involved and I wasn't the most aggressive cheer leader).  I have forgotten how long it takes to build a new relationship.

While I am working on moving the hip forward I am starting to wrap my head around my impending eye surgery to remove the pterygium on my cornea with a graft from an unseen location of my cornea. And I am setting up the allergy testing to dental cement to finalize the one year tooth saga. This is due to the extreme reaction I had to dental cement while they were finalizing a crown taking care of my extreme allergy reactions to dental cement, and managing my other joints. All this is being done before we loose our medical insurance at the end of November. Hence the rapid pace at which I am working.

And, these are the times when things get heady and I want to curl up in a fetal position and cry...

 All I can do is keep at it and inch this ball forward and see where we end up. What I do know, in the back of my head is that perseverance is a mind set and you just have to plug through...I cannot let my fears get the best of me...and I have assume that things are going to work out.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

On Death With the Eminent Dr Sacks

Isle of the Dead | Arnold Böcklin
Dr Sack's, eminent humanist and beloved neurologist died last Sunday. He made the world of medicine accessible to the lay people and brought insight into the struggle of being human. I came across this article about his perspective on death in Flavorwire digital newsletter, that I thought I would share.

Here are some of my favorite quotes, the first being top, from the article that lead me to his recent essays on death
  • Americans’ relationship to death has often struck me as being an extension of our puritan attitudes about sex  ... yet many Americans could care less about the deaths of oppressed people at the hands of the state, or from neglect.
  • “Our reluctance to honestly examine the experience of aging and dying has increased the harm we inflict on people and denied them the basic comforts they most need,” 
  • Rather than the kind of palliative care that would allow the dying to sum up their lives and say goodbye, Gawande chronicles how we often opt for invasive treatment that could prolong life, but so often doesn’t.
I do feel our society has a tricky relationship with death and aging. We can barely talk/tackle other social issues like race or poverty so, sadly, it is no surprise. I think talking about death is important to discuss openly, especially with loved ones. It is a natural part of our life process and it seems so often people are not prepared for.

 Here are Dr Sack's thoughts when he was initially diagnosed, followed by The Periodic Table and The Sabbath.

In typical enthusiasm Dr Sack's last tweet

Sunday, August 30, 2015


The Black Poet | Jean-Léon Gérôme | Legion of Honor
Somedays you have to get into the zone to push through and sometimes that is not being on task sometimes it is simply sitting: 

Saturday, August 29, 2015

If I think too hard

The Rock | Peter Blume | 1944 - 48 | Art Institute Chicago
I could get really depressed about my situation so I will work on not thinking about it since it is out of my hands! 

Friday, August 21, 2015

Week 6: Glass Half Full

I used to hate going through orthopedic surgery recoveries. And, I do this a lot...where several months are dedicated to simply getting back on my feet, and then more to get strong on my feet. This latest surgery was a complicated revision of my failed total hip arthroplasty that was done in 2009 and it is going take around 9+ months to  recover. I am currently on week 6 and hoping I can soon increase my weight bearing. We will find out next week after X-rays are reviewed. I am currently only toe touch weight bearing on my left leg. It is difficult to maneuver especially with the bulky brace

What I have learned is how to leverage the downtime and have a small catalog of the positives on being stuck in bed:e

#Advantages of being totally laid up.
  1. Get to sew those things that I been meaning to do (for the last year) but was too busy to do it.
  2. Get to do all that fun sedentary paperwork that I have been avoiding. 
  3. A lot of paper files are being jettisoned! 
  4. Less of a mess to clean up because I am not running around making a mess
  5. Get to go through all my medical paperwork that I have been avoiding
  6. When I don't feel well I care less about those niggly details that usually drive me batty
  7. Get to be introspective and think about the larger picture of life
  8. Get to clean up, clear out, and organize my apps on my IOS devices
  9. Time to pamper my cuticles
  10. Get time to read my magazines and books
  11. Get to get in touch with people I haven't had time to be in touch with

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Week 5 Post Op: Hope, Trepidation, and Gratitude

The Banquet | René Magrite 

Greeting week five with hope and trepidation. I started perking up a bit in small ways. Using a wheelchair to help move around the house; eat at the dining table, pay a few bills...yes, this is my definition of hope and excitement.

This was followed by an extreme exacerbation of a pinpoint high pain in my pelvis, making me concerned about the implications of my "tumble" last week, that I have been trying to put to the back of my mind with little success. 

I am extremely embarrassed by, mad at, frustrated with the stumble that landed me on my right pelvis (opposite my operative hip). It was a tiny movement, while I was straightening a corner of the bedding, between the wall and the bed, that landing me in a precarious position.  The one good thing I was able to do was save the most important part of my surgery, which was the femur.  However, the realization of how a single movement can result in one's undoing has been extremely unnerving –– a small shift in weight can result in losing balance in a tiny space in a walker.  If I were in a different time I would be a goner – this is how animals died on the plains and this is often the trigger of the end game in old people, and that brought a lot of things about my situation in life to a crisp focus.

Life is a fine balance, and anything can act as a tipping point.  As they say things can change on a dime. We easily forget this as we ambulate through life until something goes wrong, and it can go wrong at any time. As I get older, have more experience with difficulties, especially medical ones, I realize how temporary it all is. And, that you have to savor each and every moment. And, appreciate very small moments.

Be grateful for your loved ones and all their imperfections, be joyful of a moment of connection with anything that moves you be it a plant, animal, human, or other. Be grateful for even the tiniest of things in a given day, because I guarantee you that there is always something to be grateful for. The smallest of gratitudes build onto each other, and even on the shitiest of days you can find many things to be grateful for;  like, being grateful for having energy to pay bills...sometimes I don't even have that. So, I will take it and run with it....ok, maybe I am not running with it.... I am wheeling with it! 

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Week 4 Post-Op

Andrew Wyeth | Christmas Morning 

When recovering from ________ (whatever it is that you are recovering from) sometimes all you can do is lie there very quietly and look towards the horizon.

Monday, August 10, 2015

One Month: Still about the small things

So, today, my giant achievement was walking with the walker into my doctor's office and walking out of the doctor's office, with my husband by my side to make sure I didn't topple over. That was a very exhausting 50ft. I took breaks. But, I did it, and that is what I am grateful for today. Other than that I am pretty dang pooped... #ThereYouHaveIt

Friday, August 7, 2015

Day 28: It's the Small Things

When you get down to it, in life, it really is about the small things which add up to big things....but, it all starts very small.

I am especially reminded of this when I go through a long painful recovery, which I am right now....  there are no grand plans other than not having an accident when I am trying to rush to the elevated toilet seat in our bathroom, with my walker, and hip brace in place.

Or, having a shower, with the hip brace in place.

Or, paying a bill, that has been sitting unpaid since way before surgery.

It is these moments when you realize how small life really is, and it is so important to be grateful for what you have, because sometimes that is all you have.

This article,  12 Little Known Laws of Gratitude ,  I found humbly covers the reasons why I think #gratefulness is important in daily life and especially relevant when life is made even smaller than the "social norms".

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Day 27

Wiped out is the theme of the day. Woke up wiped up....lying here wiped out...and just letting the muscles stretch a bit....sometimes that's all one can do.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Day 5: #Postop

There are some days that I really think I cannot go on any longer. Today is one of those. 5th day post op and I am in excruciating pain. 

Monday, July 13, 2015

Day One through Five: #PostOp

I have no real memory between day 1 through 5. The few memories I have is that I woke up in horrid pain to learn that the surgery was the more complicated scenario. 

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