Yesterday was amazing! And this is coming from a girl that’s suffering from a recent episode of depression, so you know it had to be good.
I lay on the hard bed, my hospital gown comfortably tucked around me. The surgery prep area was bustling with activity. The voices of people much older than I surrounded me, another blunt reminder that the pain I suffered from was not meant for one of my age.
I was handed a styrofoam cup and shown where the bathroom was. Pre-op pregnancy tests are now a standard procedure for any woman who hadn’t had a hysterectomy or gone through menopause. I was just thankful the nurse hadn’t asked me when my last menstrual cycle was, a question I have been unable to answer for months.
“Whew, that’s a relief,” I exclaimed as the nurse revealed my negative test results, my husband rolling his eyes from the uncomfortable plastic chair that rested in the corner of my room.
Having a vasectomy six years ago left a one in a million chance that we could become pregnant. Regardless, we had taken an at home test about every six weeks that I went without Ms.Flow showing her ugly face. There were no suspicions of another little
beast miracle growing inside of me. But, I also hadn’t realized or suspected that I was pregnant with my daughter until I was nearly three months along either, so I knew that any argument would fall on deaf ears. So I peed in their cups, over and over again, at nearly every doctor, every test, every surgery.
This was the first time my husband went with me to my pain injections. Facet joint injections if we must be technical. Usually my mom went. This was also the first time I was going to try to brave the injections without sedation. Though sedation does make the actual procedure a piece of cake, one second their putting something in your IV and two second later you’re waking up in recovery, but they do make the prep a bit more of a hassle. Firstly at home, I can’t eat or drink for six hours before. Usually this isn’t too much of an issue, other than having to skip my morning coffee. Logically though, they can’t give EVERYONE morning appointments and every now and again I draw the short straw and am not scheduled until 2 or 3 in the afternoon. That makes those six hours much longer to bare. Also they have to IV you and you have to lay in recovery until you come far enough out of sedation to leave and you have to have a driver and blah blah blah.
I explained to them in pre-op that although I was scheduled for sedation that I’d like to try getting through it without, but I was a little nervous. I wasn’t so much worried about the pain. I was always in pain, what’s a few more jabs in my back? Plus I had grown quite used to getting shots since the accident. I was worried that I would jerk in response to a shot and the needle would jab though my spinal cord rendering me paralyzed for life. Morbid worries my mind comes up with huh? But hey, whose to really judge anothers fears. They are what they are.
My husband joked about me being a pussy as I nervously talked about whether or not I could make it through without sedation. Surprisingly, I actually felt much less nervous than I usually did, knowing I would be sedated, but he didn’t know this, he hadn’t been through this with me before. “Pssh, I’m a champ,” I shot at at my husband as he watched me being wheeled out of the room, comfortably laying on my back in the hospital bed. As they turned the bed I watched him get walked into the recovery room.
The team working on me yesterday was amazing. They set me up for sedation, in the event that I did need it I would be ready to go immediately, but they were not going to sedate me unless I specifically requested. The doctor was amazing about telling me exactly what he was doing before he did it so there were no surprises and checked in often to make sure I was doing okay. My intense focus on not moving and morbid curiosity of just being in the moment of analyzing the feeling of each needle entering me kept me pretty occupied through the five minute procedure.
These shots that I get are a needle that enters into a small piece of the bone near my spine and injects a steroid into them. For the first two days you are in much more pain as they fucked around with an area that is already hurting. After a couple days though the steroid medicine kicks in and the hope is that your pain level decreases. It works in about 50% of people, but it’s relatively risk free so it’s a likely avenue for doctors to pursue when trying to see what will work. This is the fourth time I’ve received these injections. So far each set has worked less than the one before, so we’ll see how this one does.
After I watched my husband walk into the recovery room the nurse helped me roll to my stomach and rested my head in a special face pillow for just this event. They then positioned a pillow comfortably under my feet. I was hooked up to oxygen, another part of being prepared in the event I would need sedation. There I lay, perfectly still as the doctor poked on me. The first needles weren’t bad. Just a small needle inserted into the skin with a local numbing agent. The other needles though, they are much larger than the first. Made to enter though bone, they leave quite the hole in your skin. Thankfully they are in my back where I cannot see! I could feel the immense pressure of them entering me. I could feel as they were shoved at various angles though my body. I could feel the sharp pain as they entered my bone. All in all, they were a little off on the description of feeling merely a little pressure. There was most certainly a level of pain involved. It wasn’t too awful though. No more or less awful than the pain I endured on a daily basis.
They wheeled me back into the room exactly as I was position for the injections. Face down in a specially designed face pillow, my arms comfortably dangling off the head of the bed, my feet resting gently on a pillow. I knew it looked just as though I had been sedated and because I’m an asshole sometimes I decided to have a little fun with my husband and lay as still as I possibly could as they spun and adjusted my bed around in the recovery room.
“Yup, you’re a champ alright,” my husband thought as he stared at my seemingly unconscious body. A moment later the nurse came to the head of my bed talking to me. I sat up as she removed the oxygen hose and face pillow and left the room. “When they pushed you in I thought you got sedated,” my husband admitted. “I know,” I retorted, laughing as I slipped back into my clothes. “Told you I was a champ.”
I must admit, my champ status dwindled as quickly as the numbing medicine. We got home and I laid across my bed, knowing there were things that needed done, but debating if I really wanted to do them. I was directed to take it easy the first day after injections. Take it easy is as broad of a statement as the day being amazing though. Besides, it WAS a Monday. I did have things to do. Plus we’ve got four kids to care for. Our two, and my step daughters 4 and 3 year old that we had guardianship of. Though my husband really is very helpful as well as our live in manny/old friend, I’m still a part of the spokes that makes this wheel of a family turn round. Stripping the bed I started washing and drying our blankets and sheets. I sat again on the bare bed, staring at my bare ashtray. It had been 14 hours now since I had a cigarette. I had to stop smoking 12 hours before the procedure. It didn’t really bother me that morning as it had many others. Usually I still smoke a couple cigarettes the morning before my procedure. Being the rebel that I am. Or just plain stupid. The interpretation is yours to make. That morning though I didn’t bother, and in return it didn’t bother me. I didn’t even bring any cigarettes along for after the procedure. Nor did I panickly request we stop to buy any on the way home. My blood pressure was relatively good at the hospital. Not perfect, but better than it’s been, exspecially since I hadn’t taken my blood pressure meds since the morning before. It read somewhere in the range of 132/87 I think. I could feel that my lungs hurt a little less. And aside from being a little sleepy, slightly in the fog, and not too motivated to do anything, I felt… better.
Yet there it sat. That empty ashtray. Staring at me menacingly. The cigarette machine made it’s gentle swish swoosh sound from the dining room as my stepsons girlfriend made a cigarette. I heard the flick of her lighter.
Fuck it. I’ll just have one.
That’s how it always begins doesn’t it?
Yesterday I had gone half the day without smoking. The entire day without coffee. I not only survived. I felt better. I felt proud. I felt like I was actually doing something. I was actually not eating the cake. Then I picked up a fork and dived in.
But the day still continued past that. It was a Monday after all. As the washing machined whired, I called the local doctors office. The one that took nearly a year to get the okay to submit record release forms too, which I had done months ago for the whole family and have yet to hear a word from. I finally got to the appropriate department only to be told, “Uh, we have no release form for you, only ones you have signed for others.” Rubbish I screamed, I know damn well I filled out a release for myself, my husband, and the four minor children in our care!! Of course I kept that all in my head though. In pure defeat I said okay and hung up the phone. What was I to do now? Run up there and fill out another form? Wait several more months? For what? To be told I didn’t actually fill out the form that I knew I had?
It is absolutely indescribably astonishing how many times I have hit the end of my rope with attempting to get adequate medical care in the last year. I went out to my husband near tears of frustration telling him what they had just said. He told me to call our old doctors office. The office over an hour away. The office we used before we moved. If, as the local office said, I never requested a record transfer than I, logically, should still be the old offices patient. So I called. As my luck would never have it, my old doctor had a cancellation that day, an hour and a half from the time I called. We took it.
Then the panic began. We rushed to get three small children ready. Rushed to get gas money. Rushed to get to the doctors.
We arrived 25 minutes late. As the receptionist called back to the doctor to see if she would still see me I fought to bite back the tears that were welling in my eyes. I knew it was our fault. We got there as fast as we could, but 25 minutes late was still 25 minutes late. I had things I needed addressed. I needed a doctor. A real doctor. I needed a note taking me off work again. I needed a doctor to know all my symptoms and find out what was wrong. I needed to be seen.
Thankfully the doctor said she’d still see me. A sigh of relief as the nurse promptly called me back. Weighing me she noted that I had gained nearly 45 pounds in the year since the doctor had last seen me. As she went over the normal round of questions and I began giving her the list of current medications I was on she asked me innocently enough, how it was that I had current medications when I hadn’t been to the doctor in over a year. I briefly told her of my grave search for medical treatment in the last year and the shitty doctor I was forced to see to obtain the high blood pressure meds that were keeping me alive. “So you’re seeing another primary doctor?” She asks. “Not really,” I replied, after already giving her the details of this ‘primary doctor’ she spoke of. Without another word she left the room. I could hear bits of the conversation in the hallway. My name was said. Another doctor. Suddenly the tears became much harder to hold back. I just wanted to be treated. To be listened to. To be taking seriously. To get the medical care that should be expected by anyone.
The nurse walked back in and went back to her questions. I could feel the underlying tension. At first I thought she was struggling with having to tell me that the doctor couldn’t see me since I had gone to another doctor. As time passed I realized the vibes I was picking up were merely her disagreement with the doctors decision to treat me regardless.
I predicted such troubles and did my best to write up a brief summary of any treatments or meds I was currently on, who ordered them, and their diagnoses behind them. To catch the doctor up on the year since I had seen her. When the doctor came in I did exactly that. Though there was much I didn’t tell as I knew I had already wasted 25 minutes of her time by being late, I did tell her everything I felt was relevant.
This doctor. Let me tell you. She listened. She stopped. She looked away from her computer. She looked at ME. She asked questions. She did what exactly what any doctor SHOULD do.
After over a year of being ignored. A year of fighting for a doctor to listen. To believe me. I could have hugged that doctor. I don’t think she will ever know how much gratitude was truly behind my thank you. How much her medical attention yesterday truly meant to me.
I will continue seeing this doctor. Yes, it’s a fucking drive. Yes, it will make a day event out of a single doctors appointment. But I will continue seeing this doctor. Why? Because no matter what job you have, no matter what you do, people know when you actually give a shit or not. People know if you are worth putting their energy into. People know if you’re worth going the distance for or not. Thankfully this doctor also understands the hassle this distance makes on me and has went out f her way to ensure that all referrals are made closer to me, such as the pelvic ultrasound she ordered and the counselling sessions she recommended. She also ordered lab tests! Finally! Checking for any possible underlying medical cause to the combination of symptoms I am having.
Did I not tell you it was an amazing day yesterday?!
She tweaked my blood pressure medicine to hopefully do away with the crazy salt cravings I’ve been having. She also added a medicine to my antidepressant/anxiety medication to help, hmm, provide some additional support to the first medication. She also listened and asked enough to realize that I didn’t want to just be handed a pill to fix everything, hence the suggested counseling, which isn’t really my thing but what the hell.
My blood pressure at that appointment? 128/85. Almost textbook. And I still hadn’t taking my medications that day. Guess there might be something to that no smoking thing after all? Maybe huh?
I didn’t get my work note. Which does suck as it’s my only means to any type of income while I’m dealing with all this shit. Another battle all on its own.
Since the accident I was taken off of work for about 5 months. I was then released for work, to see how I’d do. I returned to my old job. Lasted less than 3 months when the pain and numbness in my hands and arms became so severe I could no longer do my job. A month after that job my hands and arms had simmered to the point I could try again. I found a 90 day position at the easiest factory job most had ever heard of. I sorted bolts for ten hours a day. That’s it. I missed work no less than five days out of that 90 for accident related medical issues. I was in the hospital no less than three times. I had an extremely difficult time making it through that job. The ONLY reason I made it was because I knew it was only 90 days.
Since I had returned to work though, I am having a difficult time getting a doctor to understand that I TRIED to continue working and it didn’t work out. My experience is in factory work and nurse aide work, both understandably difficult fields for someone with back issues.
The nurse at the pain clinic rudely told me that I would have to complete a functionality test to determine if I could work or not. I’ve read about these tests. They test your ability to preform physical tasks with very limited time frames. For example, sure, I can lift 40 pounds. They will see that I can lift 40 pounds. They will not see that I will struggle to move for days on end after lifting that 40 pounds. I can’t even mop my floor most days because of my back pain. I struggle to adjust myself in bed. To turn my head to back up my vehichle. Yet, their functionality test, a short test of me pushing my ultimate limits, will not reveal the extent of what I actually go through in reality.
My doctor, this amazing doctor I saw yesterday, cannot write a note for the simple fact that she received literally no documentation of my existence in the past year. When she does receive this information it will merely state what the doctors opinions are, the same doctors who haven’t listened to me in the last year. I’m not that confident on their ability to singly convince this doctor of my true physical issues.
This leaves me pretty much stuck. By law the car insurance company HAS to pay me lost wages for up to three years from the accident. But, they require a doctors note pulling me off of work before issuing this money.
So… there’s a large handful of you that are
older more experienced and wiser than I or/and may have been through something similar. Any suggestions?
I’m kind of stuck not knowing what to do any more with this one. The “fight” gets so overwhelmingly frustrating sometimes. I truly want to just toss up my hands most days. Live in a shack in the woods and succumb to the theory that my pain, my struggles, they don’t really matter.
I often think that doctors and insurance agencies do this intentionally. They make the process so difficult that most simply give up. I though, as much as I feel like it, can’t do that. I’ve got four kids, a husband with cancer, my own future, all counting on me….
So, if you got any ideas I am 100% all ears.