Who would even guess that I’d be writing a health update?
About 2 weeks ago I was woken in the night by severe pain in my left calf. For a few nights I was routinely awake with pain in the night. It was at first very localized in a specific part of my calf muscle (seemingly). I couldn’t get in to see my Primary Care Physician. She prescribed some pain medication to take at night. The medication had no effect and the area affected was spreading, so I went to Urgent Care a couple days later. They did their best to rule out the most diabolical possible causes using ultra-sound and blood tests. Nothing serious seemed to be happening and at the time the pain was still mostly at night, with some residual pain in the morning that tended to be reduced quite a bit by evening only to erupt again with some intensity at about 2 am.
The Nurse Practioner that provided my service felt confident that blood clots and other vascular issues were not present. She prescribed stronger pain pills for night-time and added a mild muscle relaxer (cyclobenzeprine).
The following night the pain was very severe and encompassed most of my leg from thigh to ankle. The pain was also not reducing as much during the day and I was unable to dress my self without great difficulty and time. I was beginning to feel it in my buttocks. Sitting on the toilet was very painful. I was also becoming quite constipated from opiod use.
I went to the emergency department at Kaiser Sunnyside. They gave me stronger pain medication, Dilaudid, and Valium (as a muscle relaxer). They suggested that I take various laxative products.
Somewhere in here I had had another visit to Urgent Care. X-rays were taken, no relevant information gained. They ordered an MRI, of my hip, lower spine and pelvis, which I had the very next day at the hospital. Then I heard nothing back for a few days, no result information was provided.
By this time I had seen 4 different medical practioners on 4 different visitors and had been unable to talk with or even correspond with my Primary Care Physician. I was grateful that I had an appointment within a couple days with my doctor at my usual clinic. The pain was quite severe and had taken over my life morning, day and night. During this time I also had my first major bowel movement since being on pain med- it was excruciating. It was not painful at the point of exit but my left buttock and thigh hurt so badly I was left on the floor of the bathroom crying. It was the worst physical pain I can remember ever having.
[A very special thanks goes out to my most excellent friend Candace, my own personal nurse, who helped me through this process and kept my spirits up.]
So, with cautious optimism, I went to my appointment with my doctor. Unfortunately, she was out sick and my appointment had been turned over to an apparently overworked and surly gentleman who provided very little information, as quickly as he could, re-filled my Dilaudid script and gave me an after-visit summary hat included no useful information about my condition. The important things I learned at that visit were that the MRI provided evidence of some multiple nerve problems associated with possible herniated disks in my lower spine and that I would be taking oral prednisone right away followed by steroid injections. Scheduling the injections required use of imaging equipment to insure proper administration of the steroids. I was not told of potential side effects of the injections but was assured that I would receive substantial pain relief.
Yesterday I wrote an email to my doctor wondering out-loud if anyone was actually in charge of my care or if it was actually as fragmented and un-coordinated as it appeared. I asked if I would soon be given a diagnosis, in writing, of what was happening to me and when I might be able to return to work or at least do ordinary things like go to the bathroom or put on my own clothing. I was able to get her one the phone very soon later that day. She assured me that she was reviewing all the information, she apologized for being sick (she didn’t need to do that- I would have loved to get an apology from the surly and uninformative doctor who took her place). She also made an appointment with me for tomorrow- after my appointments with other specialists where I hope to get the promised relief.
[Now, I have what is considered in this country to be a “Cadillac Health Plan” of substantially higher quality than average and at a level the our new “Affordable Health Care” law will probably tax me for. I don’t mind that, really. If I am getting more than my fair share of the pie I am happy to pitch in if it means that more people, if not everyone, can get access to basic care.]
The pharmacist told me that the prednisone would have possibly drastic effects on my blood glucose levels which I would need to monitor very carefully. He also said that I could anticipate some mood irregularity and that it was important to follow the directions exactly, especially concerning the weaning off of the prednisone because of potentially serious side effects.
I look forward to tomorrow with “cautious optimism”. I learned this phrase from my very articulate and precisely spoken co-worker, Malcolm.
Sesame Street – Martians yipyip