I’ll rest after I die

Five years ago, I wasn’t sure that I’d ever have a “normal” life again.  This year, finally, I’ve been controlled enough (and learned enough coping tricks) that it’s seemed that things were getting back to normal.  Until this past week, that is.

I’ve been working like crazy, helping the older of my daughters finish her shopping for college.  Unlike most schools, the university she’s chosen has no dormitories.  Instead, there are student apartments for all.  What that means is that not only do students need towels, bed linens, and a microwave, but they also need everything else one needs for an apartment.  Vacuum cleaner, broom, blender, waffle iron…  Not only that, but the meal-plan only provides twelve meals per week, so students must do some cooking if they want the other nine meals people normally eat.  We’ve been watching the ads since January and gotten as much on sale as possible, but now it’s crunch time.  You know you’ve been spending a lot more money than normal when it trips a security flag at the credit card company.

I am exhausted!  “Pace yourself” is wonderful advice.  It just isn’t always possible.  I paced myself up until this past week.  Now I feel like I did when I was first diagnosed:  swollen feet when I get up in the mornings, stiff hands, elbows feeling like someone’s poking pins into them all day long, plantar fasciitis acting up, tendonitis in both thumbs, and fatigue so bad that I’m ready for bed by noon.  Instead of crawling back into bed, I’ve been driving all over town.

I am happy to say that we’re finally done shopping.  Unfortunately, I don’t get to rest.  Since I’d been feeling so well, I volunteered to help at a kids’ summer camp next week.  That might have been a mistake.

My duffle bag is packed.  Pills are all sorted into my pill box.  A syringe is perched atop the mtx vial.  And all I can think is that I wish I could stay home.  BUT my daughter will be at this camp, and we’ll have a chance to spend fun time together before she heads off to school.  To me, that’s worth the sacrifice.

After camp, I’ll have a couple weeks at home to… rest?  No.  It’ll be time to start harvesting the garden.  I have a few posts planned on how to make that easier on the joints.

May you have a terrific week!

What do you do when the doctor is wrong?

I hadn’t used an urgent care clinic in fifteen years, but Friday evening I encountered what I determined to be a non-emergency situation that maybe shouldn’t wait until Monday for treatment.

As the night wore on, I was using the bathroom more and more frequently.  It got to the point that there would only be a few drops, yet before I could get back in bed I felt the need to go again.  It was annoying, but not an emergency.  After a few hours, my lower back started to hurt.  Also annoying, but still not an emergency.  Deciding that I must need more fluids, I drank a glass of water.  After that, every time I used the bathroom, I would also vomit.  Ewww.  I drank more water because I didn’t want to get dehydrated and (not to be overly graphic), upchucking water was preferrable to dry heaves.

Three hours later, I typed “low urine output and back pain” into a search engine and learned that possible causes included cystitis, sepsis, prostate cancer, end-stage kidney disease, and kidney stones.  My symptoms didn’t match cystitis or sepsis, prostate cancer was easily ruled out, and given my recent lab results, so was end-stage kidney disease.  That left kidney stones or something Dr. Google didn’t reveal.  Since kidney stones are a possible side effect of one of my meds, I figured that was most likely what was going on.  Reassured that it wasn’t an emergency, I let my husband continue sleeping.

And, although it wasn’t an emergency, I knew I’d be significantly dehydrated if I spent the next thirty hours vomiting.  Googling “urgent care clinics,” I learned that the nearest one was quite a distance away (and in the opposite direction as my family doctor).  I love living out in the country, but sometimes there are disadvantages – like taking an hour to get medical help.

Once morning arrived, my dear husband drove me and my bucket (so I didn’t make a mess of his car) into the city.  The PA asked questions, did an exam, and told me that I needed to go to the ER.  It sounded to her like kidney stones, so the hospital would need to do some imaging and lab work.  She was also concerned that I was getting dehydrated.  How ironic that the PA had the exact same thoughts I’d had, but I’d chosen the wrong place to get help.

At the hospital, things got weird.  The doctor focussed on my vomiting, which I had been convinced was only a reaction to the pain in my back.  He ordered x-rays, not a CT, and also blood work and another urine dip.  The nurse went to bat for me and called the urgent care clinic for results instead of repeating the dip, however the doctor later insisted on repeating that test.  Eventually he decided that mtx made me more susceptible to infection, so told me I had “stomach flu” and sent me home with a prescription for an anti-nausea medicine.

Saturday afternoon I wore a path between the bathroom and the sofa.  No matter what the ER doc said, feeling the need to urinate three times every five minutes is not the stomach flu. When bedtime arrived, I took feldene, acetaminophen, and more zofran, and slept like a log for three hours.  At 2 a.m. I awoke in agony.  The back pain had moved to my side, and it felt like someone was stabbing me.

Eventually I was able to crawl to the bathroom where I huddled, moaning.  There was no way I could wait until Monday to see my family physician.  The pain was excruciating.  My husband got me another zofran tablet, and also dug through the medicine cabinet to find morphine left from my surgery two years ago.  The zofran didn’t work, but the morphine lowered the pain from a 9 to an 8, and we headed back to the ER.

This time there was a different doctor who explained that although people with kidney stones are usually agitated and move around a lot (I just wanted to curl up in a ball and die), he thought that’s what I had.  He waited patiently while I puked my guts out, then did an exam and sent me for a CT scan. Testing proved he was right.  The PA was right.  I was right.  What on earth was that first ER doc thinking?  I have a kidney stone, not the stomach flu.

Now I have different prescriptions and am waiting for this stone to pass.  And I’m wondering:  What could I have done differently?  What should I have said when doc #1 patronizingly tried to convince me that I had a simple case of gastroenteritis?  That wrong diagnosis cost me unneeded x-rays, a second trip to the ER, lost sleep, worry for my family, and a ton of extra time.  I suspect that in the future I’ll be asking doctors lots more questions.  Even though I haven’t been to medical school, I won’t be as accepting of a diagnosis that doesn’t sound quite right.  What’s the solution?  How can a person get good care without seeming obnoxious?

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Life-threatening situations are what I consider emergencies:  heart attack, stroke, blow to the head followed by loss of consciousness, etc.  There are other instances in which medical care is needed, but nobody’s going to die if it takes a few hours instead of a few minutes to obtain help.  Hospital emergency departments are for emergencies.  Doctor’s offices are for other situations.  In my opinion, urgent care centers are for times that the doctor’s office is closed and the non-emergency situation can’t wait until the doctor’s office will be open.

A Love Story

In the late 1800′s, young Fred left his home and family in Sweden and journeyed across the ocean to a new land.  After arriving at Ellis Island, he immediately continued his journey, travelling west to find land to homestead.

In Iowa he discovered a community of other Swedish immigrants and wonderfully rich soil to farm.  He also fell in love with Emma, daughter of another immigrant.  On October 6, 1910, Fred and Emma married.  They stuck together through storms, drought, and sickness, and raised corn, cows, chickens, and four children.

On their silver anniversary, friends gave Fred and Emma this plate:

SilverAnn 006

Fred & Emma’s children (as grown children are wont to do) married and raised families of their own.  When their oldest son celebrated his twenty-fifth anniversary, they passed the plate on to him, who in turn gifted the anniversary plate to his oldest child in 1988.  On my last anniversary, the plate was given to me. What a heritage.

On Valentine’s Day we might tend to think of cute little hearts, and picture dreamy kids gazing longingly at one another, but true love is so much more than those starry-eyed feelings.  It’s a man and woman teaming up, sticking together regardless of what life throws their way.  It’s the husband and wife sitting at Children’s Hospital today while their 15 year-old son has cardiac surgery.  It’s the octogenarian couple holding hands in the doctor’s office, silently supporting one another as they wait for the verdict.  It’s the twenty-somethings about to welcome their first child.  Warm fuzzy feelings are nice, but they don’t pay the bills or mow the grass or put meals on the table.  Love is a decision to stick together come what may.

I had high hopes for today.  Pick up a ham so I could cook my husband’s favorite meal, and follow it with a homemade apple pie…  Life got in the way.  We started the day with a 600 pound calf still down (it lay down yesterday and couldn’t get up).  I waited for the vet to come figure out what’s wrong and if it could be saved, then picked up the calf — no small feat – and got it warm & dry and some food into it.  A run to the feed store for special grain and some medicine, and my day was shot.  I placed a phone call to say, “Dear husband, I love you, but that calf will be food for 8 months if it grows up, or $1,000 toward someone’s college fund; you’ll get your special dinner another day.” I could hear his smile over the phone, “That calf is important. Love is more than a date on the calendar.  Let’s clean up leftovers tonight.”

Hoping you had a terrific Valentine’s Day with your loved ones.