Monday, July 19, 2010

Steampunk Day Bed

Dr Thaddeus Robertson has overcome the biggest obstacle for daytime napping.........he's figured out a way to stop time as long as the napper is snoozing in his Amazing Solar Energized Time Preservation Napping Bed.  I'm not sure how it works, but if he could make it in life size, he and I would both retire!

I so want to sleep in this bed!  There are 20 pillows and snuggling down into that much silk would be a dream come true.  

Sunday, July 11, 2010

A Lesson in Pain

Last Wednesday was my first appointment with the spine doc.  I went in clutching my MRI films (getting copies of those was a new experience in incompetence!) and not really knowing what to expect.   It had taken over an hour just to fill out the new patient paperwork because there was soooo much of it and I had to initial and sign and swear in blood that if they gave me any medication I wouldn't even tell my husband where I kept it and agreed to random drug tests twice a year to be sure that I was taking the correct amount and not selling it in dark alleys.  Not that I've been in any dark alleys (lately) or that they think a middle aged woman would be considering a new career as a drug pusher.  It appeared to be all legal stuff but you can see why I was wondering what to expect!  I've been trying to avoid taking the pain killer route in all this so I was a little apprehensive about them just handing me a prescription and shoving me out the door.  Turns out that I didn't need to worry about that at all.  They're more about eliminating the pain than simply masking it with narcotics.  Yay!!

The first person I saw was Dr. B's physician's assistant.  My first impression was "I have shoes that are older than this kid".  Then I took a closer look and thought, "Wow!  If he has an Australian accent, he'll be a perfect double for Dr Chase on "House".  He's pretty!"   It didn't take long to figure out that there was more to the PA than a pretty face.  He's intelligent and was very meticulous in his exam.  He asked a lot of questions and listened to my answers.  The listening part alone got him a gold star in my book.  That doesn't happen very often!  Even more impressive was that he took notes.  After he was finished, he went outside and discussed his findings with Dr. B and they looked at my MRI pics before he came in.

The first thing Dr. B asked was, "How long have you had this pain?"   I opened my mouth to answer and then realized that I really don't know.  I tried to answer again and my brain still wouldn't engage.  So I sat there looking like a fish while I tried to figure it out.  Finally I told him that the pain started about 20 years ago but has become debilitating in the past five years.  He looked at the forms I'd filled out and said, "Tell me about the old injuries to your back that you mentioned here".

Oh dear.  I was afraid that was going to come up.  I'd thought about not mentioning them at all when I filled out the paperwork but if I want doctors to be honest with me, I can't not tell them things that might be important.  So I took a deep breath and explained about Domestic Violence:  The Gift That Keeps on Giving.  

The upper back injury happened one night in the late '80s when I was sound asleep and my ex came into the bedroom, took an assault rifle off the wall, and slammed it down across my shoulders.   It took about three or four years for me to recover from that one.  When it would flare up I wouldn't be able to even turn my head for months at a time.  Now it's just a dull ache that I don't notice unless I stop and think about it or the weather is really wet and cold.

The lower back injury wasn't nearly as dramatic but apparently it caused more damage.  My ex shoved me into a kitchen counter and the corner of the countertop made a direct hit into my right kidney.  That one never really stopped hurting, especially if I touch that spot on my back, but after awhile I got used to it.  My way of dealing with pain isn't to ignore it or try to convince myself that it doesn't hurt..........I just convince my brain that it's normal to feel that way.  The human body is a lot tougher than most people imagine.  With time, we can learn how to assimilate almost anything.

Fortunately Dr B didn't make a big deal about the reasons, he simply asked, "Why haven't you looked for pain relief before now?"  I explained that I didn't have the option for medical assistance at the time and then later on, I'd lived with it for so long that I didn't really even think about it anymore.  When it started to get worse there were other medical issues that took a priority and the only reason I was seeing him now is because my rheumatologist had finally seen the MRI report that the quack internist had dismissed as "just fine" and said she wanted me to see a back specialist.  Fortunately I had a lull in doctor appointments until the end of the month so I could fit him in.  I think his lip twitched and he almost smiled at that.

After that he started his exam and pushed and prodded at various parts of my back, especially where the degenerative disc disease and facet arthropathy is the worst.   He showed me one of the spine sculptures that doctors always have and explained how the bones were grinding against each other in those places and how steroid shots would provide the cushion to relieve the pain.  He said surgery may be something to consider down the line but for now we can try the shots and see how I do with them.  Yay!!

The discussion turned to which part of my spine to do first since they need to divide the amount of steroids up into two sessions for it to be effective.  Dr B told me to turn around with my back to him and he started tapping against my spine with the flat side of his fist.  I yelped a little here and there but it wasn't any worse than any other exam until he got to the S1 joint.  He waited until I exhaled and then drew back and gave it a rap just to the right of my spine.

OMFG.  I screamed and my knees buckled.  My hubby caught me before I could hit the floor and shoved my cane under my hand.  I pulled myself back upright, gasping for air but not really finding any.  Tears were running down my face and I realized that the sobbing noises I heard were coming from me.  It felt like a piece of bone had come off and pierced the bundle of nerves at the base of my spine.  It took several minutes before I could catch my breath and stop crying.

That was a real awakening for me.  Dr B had just demonstrated the amount of pain that exists when I'm not controlling it thru breathing and diversionary tactics.  It shocked the hell out of me to think that this is the pain that I've been  living with for so long.  Granted I don't often encounter raps to my lower back like that, but the pain is the same that I feel whenever I'm standing or walking.........just not as sudden or unexpected so I can control it.  I didn't see Dr B's rap coming and he caught me on the exhale so it was a sucker punch for sure.  I understand why he had to do it to evaluate the pain levels accurately, but if he ever does it again I'm gonna go upside his head with my cane.  Not even a doctor gets more than one chance at a sucker punch with me.  LOL!

Dr B helped me back up on the exam table and said that we'd start the injections with the sacrum region and do the lumbar later.  There will be around 60 injections the first time, but they're going to put me under the "amnesia anesthesia" so it doesn't matter.   The really good thing is that he said they can do the cortisone shots in my hands at the same time.  Double Yay!!  I'm waaaaaay overdue for a refill in my wrists so right now I'm happier about that then I am about the back.  I'm glad we can get that all over in the same day.  Given the option, I'd rather have twice the pain on one day than to have half the pain on two days.  Might as well get it over with at once.  Hopefully the injections will work on my back.  I'm optimistic about that since I already know that cortisone works for my hands.  It stands to reason that it might work on my back too.  I haven't really thought much about what it would be like to not have the pain in my back.  It's been so long that I can't really wrap my brain around that concept, but it did cross my mind that it would be nice to be able to mop the kitchen floor without having to stop and sit down every three minutes.

The last thing Dr B talked to me about is the cyst on my right kidney which had him pretty concerned.  He's sure it's from the old injury (which didn't surprise me at all) and strongly recommended that I find a good internist to take a look at it.  He said that the shots aren't going to impact any pain coming from the kidney at all so the worst of the pain may still be there afterwards and if it is, then at least it arms me with information that I can use to push an internist into doing the tests needed to determine the damage to the kidney and possibly get the cyst removed.  I'm putting that on my medical to-do list right after "getting oxygen to my muscles" and "removing the elephant in my throat".  

I'm having the shots done on the 26th which is going to be a busy week because I see the pulmonologist on the 27th and the thyroid surgeon on the 29th.   Oh, and as long as I was there, I asked the doc about the pain in my collarbone that the thyroid specialists say can't possibly be caused by my collarbone being shoved into my thyroid gland.  He said there's nothing skeletal causing it.  Therefore, if the thyroid surgeon tries to pull that same bullshit line on me of "It's just arthritis or referred pain from your spine",  I can tell him that I have a rheumatologist and a spine specialist who are both willing to 'splain anatomy to him and prove that it's his job to fix it.

I may be on the right track, depending on what happens with the pulmonologist and the surgeon.  At least I have one more doctor on my side who's willing to tell other doctors what needs to be done.  I'll be going into see doctors 12 and 13 with a real chip on my shoulder and I'll start yelling if I need to.  At this point I really don't give a shit if they have to call security to come drag me out of their offices.  I'm not going to leave until someone does something to fix me.   My awakening moment in Dr B's office has been a bit of an eye opener that things are probably a lot worse than I think they are.  If I can hide *that* kind of pain from myself, what else have I become accustomed to just because it's felt that way for so long?  I shouldn't have to live with a thyroid gland that is constant agony because there's a bone jammed into it.   I shouldn't have to live on 80% of the oxygen my body needs simply because some template says that I'm too fat to be considered worth fixing--especially since it's the lack of proper medical attention that has caused my weight gain in the first place.  Most of all I shouldn't have to live with the possibility of cancer growing unchecked in my throat.  I've been pissed for a long time, but now I think that I'm just plain outraged about it all.  I guess it's time for my southern upbringing to be set aside (much easier said than done!) and become aggressive and rude to get these lazy ass doctors to do their job.  I'm done searching for good doctors because I don't think I'm going to find any around here.  I don't like to be a bitch, especially to someone that I'm asking to help me but it seems that being a bitch may be the only way that I'm going to get any help at all.

You know, when I started this blog it was supposed to be all about miniatures but sometimes I forget that other people read what I write and I go drifting off into these rants about my ongoing saga with the medical profession.  For the most part, I end up talking to myself and then remember that other people are reading it.   I seldom go back and read my blog but I looked at the archives today and thought, "Oh lordy, this is starting to sound like General Hospital without Luke and Laura".   I've thought about deleting some of the things I've written and then decided to leave it all as it is because there are other people out there who go thru the same kind of fights that I do in an ongoing struggle to get proper medical attention.  So I'll leave everything as it is just in case someone comes across it and realizes that they aren't alone and it's important to keep fighting even when it feels like you can't go on one more step.  

In the mini side of life where things are much happier, I'm thrilled about getting the cortisone refill in my hands because the design plan for the Rosedale is finished and I'll be starting to order wallpaper and supplies and all those other fun things this week.  My hands will be functional again about the time it all gets here.  Woooooooohooooooooo!  While I'm waiting for them to arrive I'll be working on the furniture and window treatment designs to pull it all together.  It's been exciting to plan this house and it's going to be sooooooo pretty!   There's a special architectural feature that I'm going to add to the bedroom that I think will take the house over the top.  I haven't been this psyched up about a house since I built my own Willowcrest.........and this Rosedale is going to be every bit as spectacular.

I almost forgot that I was going to share a picture of one of my recent challenges.  One of my favorite clients sent me some vintage white wicker furniture with a request that I dress it in oriental fabrics, preferably a dragon.  I thought, "I can do that!" and set aside some gorgeous chinese red brocade for it.  When I showed him the fabric he said, "That's really pretty but this is going to be outdoor furniture and I need it to be yellow and blue to match the exterior of the house".   {moment of silence}  Yellow and blue oriental fabric with dragons.  Now that's not something that you see every day.

{giggling}  Well, it's not something you see every day unless you have my eclectic fabric stash.  LOL!  Would you believe that I actually had a piece of yellow and blue oriental fabric with a dragon print?  What are the odds of that happening???  It was one lonely little fat quarter of a print from one of Hoffman's challenges way back when.  It's at least 10 years old and waaaaaaaaay out of production.  But a fat quarter is all I needed, even with some fussy cutting to get the dragons just right.

The client send me one of the actual windows from the house so I could match up the colors.  The first thing I did was weave a matching ribbon into the sides of the chairs to perk up the elderly wicker just a teeny bit.  I used the same dark blue for the pillows so it would pick up the darker blue in the print.  Here's what the set looks like with the window behind it.   From this angle, the dressing has a bright and cheery, and somewhat tropical, look with the focus on the colors and not the design.

But if you look straight down at them, the cushions show the dragon's talons holding crystal balls.

The throw is another fussy cut piece that has a tropical and bamboo look

until you turn it to the side and then you can see the dragon's face.  

I like playing with little optical illusions like that and my client was thrilled with a set of wicker furniture that holds a secret.  

The last bit of mini news today is that Dr Robertson is almost finished with a new steampunk mini that he's been working on for the past two weeks.  He says that it's sure to be a big sensation because he's figured out a way to fit more naps into the day.  Now that's technology we can all put to good use!!