New Year’s Eve

New Year’s Eve is always melancholy for me. It’s the arbitrary end of the year, which can be a mixed blessing. More importantly, it’s the anniversary of my car accident – 24 years ago tonight. Sometimes it feels like yesterday.

The facts are simple: we exited the Brooklyn Bridge, the exit ramp is sharp and short, and we slipped on a patch of ice. The car slid and we ran head-first into the concrete bridge footing. The emotional memory is far more complex. I had gone to NYC to spend New Year’s with my boyfriend. Being young, in college, and possibly a little hypomanic, this seemed like a good idea at the time. So did the idea of hopping into a SUV with four boys to see the ball come down in Times Square. “Bad weather” doesn’t mean much to a teenager. Life is a cruel teacher.

I don’t remember everything. They thought I might have hit my head. My two front teeth were never found. But I remember the last few moments before impact. They say that in situations like this that your life flashes before your eyes. Bullshit. Time slows down. Your brain registers every nanosecond. And you think really stupid things. One minute you are laughing and talking, the next your brain is calculating. See bridge footing. Check. Impact imminent. Check. Bridge footing getting closer. Check. Am I supposed to relax my muscles or brace for impact? Time’s up.

My next conscious memory is of the paramedics ripping the door open. Strong arms beneath my armpits dragging me across the frozen grass.  I couldn’t feel anything. Shock can be a blessing.  I recall watching my legs bounce along the grass.  My left leg was on the opposite side of my right.  Something didn’t add up, but I couldn’t quite figure out what. I was cold. So cold. They kept asking me how to contact my parents. I recited my brother’s phone number over and over again. Really, I just wanted them to leave me alone and stop asking questions they already knew the answers to. There was a nice lady paramedic who held my hand and talked to me. I don’t remember what she said. I just remember she was nice, I was cold, and I was really sick of repeating my brother’s phone number. I didn’t even like him that much.

Next memory: the ambulance.  Shock started to wear off.  My nerve endings came back to life.  I felt every bump the streets of New York had to offer. I yelled. I cursed.  I asked the driver if he could find anymore fucking potholes to run over. The sound of emergency sirens blazed trails of emotional memory in my brain. Mercifully, the trip finally ended.  They ripped open the back of the ambulance. As the pulled me out, the driver said to me, “Happy New Year.”

The rest of the evening is a blur. (I posted some of this in Donation.) Someone shoved a clipboard under my nose and asked me to sign. It didn’t look like my signature. Was that important?  I was in and out of consciousness. I swore. A lot. Where does it hurt? Fucking everywhere.  Later, it didn’t hurt anywhere.  I couldn’t feel anything below my neck.  That’s when I screamed.

Meanwhile, my parents got a call from the nice paramedic lady.  Five words a parent never wants to hear: “You should go to her.”

I woke up strapped to a board.  One of the most terrifying moments I’ve ever experienced.  You can’t even move your fingers. They couldn’t operate on my leg until the neurologist came to drill holes in my skull for the halo traction. A nurse fed me ice chips while we waited for surgery.  A priest stood by my side all night, ready to give me last rites should I need them.  When my parents arrived, they told them to be prepared.  I only had a 40% chance of surviving surgery and I would never walk again.

Good thing no one ever told me the odds or I might have given up. I don’t know if I would have or not. I am a stubborn S.O.B. And I was hell bent and determined to go back to college.  Eight months and one cane later, I was back in school full time.

Eleven years later, I had my Ph.D.

I never take the easy route.  But you wouldn’t be reading this if I had.

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New Surgery Date

I moved up my surgery date to Nov 3rd. I re-arranged my schedule and I have friends coming to sit with me on the 4th & 5th while DH is working. I am terrified but as a friend pointed out to me maybe it is like a band-aid: you can peel it back slowly or you can rip it off. she suggested that maybe I should just rip it off quickly and get it over with. So this is what I decided to do. Rip!

Believe it or not, the evil nurse was actually nice to me when I called to reschedule. Which is good because I was dreading talking to her. But she seemed actually happy that I moved it. Go fig. Maybe I was helping her fill her scheduling quota.

Now I’ve used this surgery as an excuse to buy an iPad. Bad financial decision, good emotional decision. I’m using it to write this blog and I think it might make it possible to blog while I’m injured. Especially since I seem to be able to type one handed on it. Although I wouldn’t expect any great works of literature from me in the near future. 😉

Well, that’s my update for now. Please keep me in your thoughts on Nov 3rd.

Thank you!

Surgery Date

I have a date for the surgery on my elbow: Nov 10th.  I’m not looking forward to this – I’m not sure my medical PTSD is actually made any better by repeated exposure to hospitals.  I am better than I used to be.  There was a time when I couldn’t walk into a hospital.  I’m used to going to the ER at my local hospital in the wee hours of the morning.  They are actually not too busy then and the nursing staff is quite nice.  (Last time I had a really hot male nurse- woo!  😉 )  But back to surgery… that’s a whole different ball game.  Based on previous experience, I don’t seem to react well to anesthesia.  And I certainly don’t react well to pain.

This new nurse, the one for the surgeon, is not nearly as supportive as the one for the specialist.  I was trying to schedule my surgery date and she said she could fit me in next week, but when I told her I wanted November, her attitude changed rapidly.  I didn’t tell her this, but I have a wedding to go to and I have worker’s comp doctor appointments and I just can’t handle that much medical all at once.  Then she starts asking if I’m working, and why not, and I’m trying to explain it to her – it’s political – etc.  “We usually don’t do paperwork if your employer takes you off work.”  So I’m trying to explain that it’s a requirement by my employer that I have paperwork and her tone keeps getting snottier with every question.  I finally just asked her to talk to another nurse, the one who works with the specialist I’ve been seeing, because she understands the situation.  By the end of it, this nurse was snarling and I was so rattled that it hadn’t occurred to me that the simple explanation is:  I have work restrictions but my employer does not wish to accommodate them.  That’s why I’m not at work.  Why can’t they just look at my damn chart?

This new nurse probably figures that I am just trying to get out of work.  Part of me is, I suppose, but mostly, I’m just trying to get to a point where I can deal with the surgery emotionally.  Should I call her back? Should I change it?  Should I explain it in a letter submitted with the paperwork that I am going to drop off? I don’t know. My brain is going to explode.

But they don’t want me back to work until I am 100%.  And then I am sure they intend to torture me with tasks that require a lot of manual labor.  They tout safety but they don’t mean it – it’s more get the job done and if someone gets hurt, let’s sweep it under the rug or pretend it’s their fault.  That happened the first time I was hurt at work.  The head of safety was so pissed that I submitted it as an incident that he said further incidents should be reported to him first before they go into the system. What the fuck?  (Please pardon my language.)  If they hadn’t been pushing me to violate my work restrictions, then I wouldn’t have gotten hurt in the first place.  And if you get hurt, well, they will find a way to toss you into the bottom 10% and put your job in jeopardy.

I had such a nice weekend – the Paxil is finally starting to work – and now this. I’m so upset that I took a Klonopin and I haven’t done that in days, maybe even a week.  The only good thing about today is that I get to see my councilor tonight.  God, I wish I could get drunk.


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Overwhelmed by Medicine

Medicine: the art or science of restoring or preserving health or due physical condition, as by means of drugs, surgical operations or appliances, or manipulations: often divided into medicine proper, surgery, and obstetrics. –

I am overwhelmed.

I am trying to recover from gallbladder surgery.  This should be my main focus.  Except that I still have to go to physical therapy – one is for worker’s comp so you can’t get out of it no matter how badly you feel – and the other to be evaluated for the followup on the tennis elbow problem –  and I see that doctor tomorrow morning.  I have (psych) therapy tomorrow night, and I had to find a friend to take me because I can’t drive on these painkillers (yes, I’m still on them, they even gave me more – I’ll come back to that) because my husband has to go for introduction sort of thing for his new part-time job.  Are you confused yet?  Because I am.  If my phone didn’t have a calendar app, I would never know where I am supposed to be or when I am supposed to be there – and I’m not even working.

Problem #1: Gallbladder surgery.  It’s been 5 days.  I still feel like crap.  I’m not eating meals so much as I am snacking on yogurt, smoothies, crackers and some fruit. (And the occasional fat-free/sugar-free gummy bear just for emotional sake.)  I’ve tried a couple of real meals and I just don’t feel well afterwards.  Now I am at the point where I don’t feel well at all.  Probably because my digestive system hasn’t reset yet.  Going along with this issue is that I am still in pain but I’ve been trying to cut back on the painkillers because they accentuate the digestive reset problem.  Also, I’m running out of them.  So I told the nurse and she conferred with the doctor, and they decided that I need to take the painkillers regularly (“as prescribed”) every 6 hours and faxed in a new prescription for me.  Lucky me.

I realize that some people would happy to have a fresh supply of Lortab but not me.  Why?  A couple of reasons. 1) I am allergic to aspirin, ibuprofen and probably all NSAIDs which means there isn’t much in the way of heavy-duty painkillers that you can give me.  So if I should build up a tolerance – well, then I’m screwed.  2) I am terrified of becoming hooked on anything.  I’ve been reassured by doctors, nurses, therapists and even articles that this is not going to happen to me in 2 or 3 weeks recovering from surgery.  Keep in mind, I never said there was any logic behind this fear.

Problem #2: Physical therapy.  Worker’s comp PT.  They had to make sure I came in 3 times this week.  Monday was definitely out.  I don’t have a driver for tomorrow, so that left Tuesday, Wednesday & Friday.  Rather than to cut a day out (which I am supposed to be down to 2x/week now anyway), they had me come in Day 4 after my surgery.  Seriously.  At least they did go a bit easy on me – I can only do some of the original exercises so they gave me new mild (in their opinion) stretching exercises to do. Worker’s Comp said that they would work with me regarding my surgery in terms of dates and obligations.  So I better not catch any crap for having to cut back on my exercises.  At least I didn’t pass out from the Lortab. Also, I had to have one more session on my elbow because I see that doctor tomorrow.  All this PT is definitely NOT GOOD for the gallbladder surgery recovery.  Just saying.

Problem #3: Elbow issue.  This is what technically put me on short term disability (STD) in the first place.  The PT said today that there isn’t much more they can do for me.  We stopped the ASTYM a couple of weeks ago and went with strengthening and it seems to be working really well.  My regular PT hasn’t been there for the past few times so another girl had to do my evaluation today.  She said that there isn’t much more they can do for me.  I have range of motion and a lot of my strength back, so maybe I do have to let the doctor cut open my arm and scrape out the bad tissue.  I get to discuss this with him tomorrow.

Do I have the emotional strength to handle another surgery?  Will it just get worse instead of better?  And what really are the odds of success? 90% or 60%?  I’ve heard both.  Does it even work at all?  I am nauseated by the thought of another surgery.  Especially on the heels of this one.  This is aside from the costs or the fear of returning (or not returning) to work.  I am at a loss.  I really need my friend Klonipin right now, but I’m not sure how well it would mix with the Lortab.  I think they are OK to use together (thanks interactions checker) but I sure as hell don’t want to die because of some stupid meds mixing.

I don’t know.  I am really overwhelmed.

© Manic Monday (manicmonday123). Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Manic Monday (manicmonday123) with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Worker’s Incompetent

Just had to share this…  I received a call yesterday from the company that (supposedly) coordinates my physical therapy.  They called to schedule my PT.  I called them back and said, “I really don’t understand this call, I have been attending PT for a week.”  So they check my file.  I go over with them where I am going to PT, how they got it approved (neglected to mention that they never told me about the approval but perhaps this is the first time they figured it out), and when I started.  I even told them that my nurse case manger knew all about it and it should be in my file.  Then they say, “OK, I guess your adjuster didn’t know.”

I relay this story to my PT today.  And she says, “They had to know, they are ones who approved it.”  I had already figured this out, but hearing it from someone else just makes it all that much more amusing.  There are too many people with their fingers in this pie, I am amazed that anything gets done.  Think of all the money the company would save (and how much faster the process would be)  if all this could be taken care of with just a doctor and one company handling the paperwork?

Now I have to go into work to see the company doctor because my personal doctor doesn’t want me working because of my right arm (well, both arms, but the right is the only one he’s allowed to treat), and the worker’s comp doctor says I don’t need any work restrictions, so I guess the company doctor will be the arbitrator of truth.  I give up.

Ah well, there is good news.  My blood pressure is lower.  A bit too low now, but we will work that out.  At least I’m not about to have a stroke.


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Worker’s Comp

Don’t do it.  If you get hurt at work, don’t admit to it.  Go home.  Tell them you fell off the roof while painting your house.  But don’t tell them it happened at work.

First, they put you on disability because you are too much of a liability to stay at work.

Then when the claim is filed, all hell breaks loose.  You go through a grueling telephone interview.  DH’s response: “Wow, I didn’t know you could be waterboarded over the phone.”  They want every detail of your life: your entire medical history, your hobbies, do you have a second job, do you take drugs, what do you do outside of work?  They want a list of every neurologist, pyschiatrist, orthopedic and primary care doctor as well as every employer for the past ten years.  They will ask you what happened and how it happened, then put words into your mouth and twist it to look like you are lying.  Oh, and why didn’t you report it sooner?  Because you were hoping to avoid this torment.  By the way, your conversation is being taped.

Next you get a nurse case manager (NCM) who is supposed to be on your side.  He/she is by your side when you see the doctor.  The doctor who says, “it’s just a sprain” and you don’t need work restrictions.  Never mind that you haven’t been able to drive more than a mile and a half in two months so you wouldn’t be able to get to work, and you can’t type for more than 5 minutes at a time (if that some days) and a significant portion of your job involves typing and mousing.

Now they prescribe physical therapy.  Scheduling company calls at 4:50pm.  You don’t call them back that day because you’ve spent all day trying to get your blood pressure below stroke level.  You spend most of the next day in a doctors office tackling the blood pressure issue so you don’t have a stroke before you can get to PT.  But maybe that’s what they want so the case can be closed.  However, since you didn’t call them back immediately, they start in with the nasty letters.  They leave notes in your file saying you have refused to return their calls.

When you do call them back the next morning, they want to send you to the PT office in town that is most incompetent.  You can request a competent PT, but since it is out-of-network it has to be approved.  They say they will call you back immediately but never do.  You wait patiently another day and a half, then call your nurse case manager.  You remember them, right?  The one person on your side supposedly helping you through this maze?  He tells you that you never called the company that schedules your PT.  (Yeah, they’re the ones you called last week who never called you back.)  Finally, after digging around in your file, your request for an out-of-network (and hopefully competent) PT was approved last week.  Why are you calling him?  Why haven’t you scheduled your appointment? What do you mean, you don’t know where you are approved to go? (Translation: What the hell is wrong with you? Aren’t you omniscient?)

Get number for PT place.  Call PT to set up an appointment.  PT hasn’t called you because they don’t have the information they need to start treatment.  Can you call your claims manager and get them to send the information they need?  Fortunately, PT takes pity on you and makes the calls for you once you give them every number you can find.  They tell you to come in at 8:30AM the next day.  Hopefully they will have the paperwork in time and can actually help you.

Injury date(s): May 17th & May 25th, Recorded ~June 20th

Dr. appointment: July 12th, First PT appointment: July 20th

I should have fallen off the fucking roof.  I’d be healed by now.  And have taken a lot less Klonipin.


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In the beginning…

Like many of us, I struggled to find a topic to blog about.  A million ideas went through my head: I could talk about random things, I could talk about television shows, I could talk about my hobbies – any number of things. I’ve been going through some health issues recently and I thought about blogging my mystery illness and my quest for a diagnosis and cure.  I sat on the examining table, after having gone through the litany of coordination tests, and listened to the neurologist’s conclusion. He told me that my most significant problem is that my bipolar is out of control.  This upset me.  Wouldn’t it upset you?  But at some level, I recognized the truth beneath the pain.  And I realized that what I should be blogging about is my struggle with bipolar.  It’s the largest thing in my life.  I can’t avoid it, or side-step it, or ignore it, because as soon as I do, it clubs me over the head and drags me off into a deep, dark alley that’s difficult to crawl out of.

As I sat there, listening to the neurologist tell me that my symptoms were related to my bipolar, I grew agitated.  At that time, all I could hear was, ” it’s all in your head.”  The doctor asked me many pointed questions: If you know you’re bipolar is out of control, why haven’t you done anything about it?  Dredging up my past, he wanted to know why did I stay in an abusive relationship for seven years?  I told him it would take a week to explain.  I felt as if I was on trial.  I felt betrayed.  I wanted to ask my husband: why are you siding with them? Why are you ganging up on me?  Why is it not enough for me to say: yes, my bipolar is out of control, but let’s talk about what is really wrong with me?  What has bipolar got to do with my aching joints? What does it have to do with the deep, throbbing, chest constricting pain that sends me to the hospital?

I have neuropathy – idiopathic of course,  because only 40% of neuropathies can be identified.  A 60% failure rate.  How do you like those odds? Also, I probably have multiple sclerosis (MS), but it isn’t active and doesn’t really require treatment at this time.  He said that I don’t display any neurological symptoms.  Ha!  So I can touch my nose with my eyes closed and I can flex my feet and feel a pin.  But I can’t walk too fast or I will trip and fall.  There’s an odd stitchy feeling – like a tickle but not quite – that wraps around my torso and it will trigger the neuropathy pain.  I can’t find a word I want when I want it, or I substitute a different one and never realize it.  I don’t know what I am saying anymore and I can’t remember what I’ve said.

But it’s all in my head.

Except that’s not what he said.

But in a way he did.

There was the explanation that it’s all in your head because all pain is in your head since the brain interprets pain, etc.  The nurse was no better, trying to explain to me that the guy in the room next door has broken more body parts than he can count and yet he wants to know why his arm hurts.  It’s all in his head too, she explains since that’s where the interpretation of pain is.  But I’m not buying it.  No.  She gives my husband the schedule for my new neuropathy medication – 3x/day, evenly spaced, gradually working my way up from 300mg to 900mg.  She gives the instructions to him, because the crazy lady wouldn’t understand.  Or wouldn’t be willing to follow it.

My husband was there acting as a translator between what the doctor said and what I heard through my mania, but all I could hear was his betrayal.  He was on their side.  When did I lose my only ally?   I didn’t hear the doctor say that my symptoms are real, but that my instability is amplifying the pain.  The doctor kept saying, the bipolar is preventing you from dealing with the pain. Whatever that means.  It still sounds like “it’s all in your head” to me.

But yesterday I made an appointment with the counselor.  It had to be done sooner or later anyway, and this is as good a time as any.  I’ll have trouble finding a psychiatrist since I live in a small town, full of (apparently) crazy people because they aren’t taking new patients.  However, I have accepted that the neurologist was right about one thing – my meds need to be reevaluated and I do need therapy.  But I think he’s wrong about one thing too – the pain is real and it’s not in my head.


© Manic Monday (manicmonday123). Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Manic Monday (manicmonday123) with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.