Monday, May 28, 2012

Fire at the Villagio

Doha News report for the story as reports continue to come in.

A few hours ago, I learned of a fire at the Villagio Mall in Doha, a shopping center and mall that we spent countless hours at while we were in Qatar. Not once did I ever think to look up and see if there were sprinklers installed as a fire safety. The fire seems to have started in Gympanzee, a children's play area. Thus far, 13 children are dead and 6 adults. The really miraculous thing is that emergency personnel arrived in 8 minutes. Only those who've live in a part of the world like the Middle East can truly understand how traffic there operates. Drivers usually pay little to no attention to ambulances trying to make their way to an emergency, and they certainly are in no hurry to get out of the way.

I am saddened by this tragedy and pray for those hurt and the families of those who died in the fire. Eliza is worried about her friends in Doha, so we're saying a special prayer that they are safe.

You might take a few minutes to be thankful that we live in a place where our safety during emergency situations is something that most people take seriously. We have regulations in place to keep buildings relatively safe in the case of a fire, and that's just one of a million things that people in other parts of the world don't have.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Very Unlucky

When I went to the doctor at the pain clinic today--the one who did the original epidural steroid injection--to explain the subsequent complications and continuing pain in my back, his response was:

"I'm sorry AcadeMama, you're just very unlucky."

I resisted the urge to swear and was in too much pain to kick him in the face. He wanted to know why I hadn't taken any pain medication today, and I explained that I'm tired of taking pills. His view was that I really didn't have much choice if I wanted any relief. He assured me that I could take the medicine he's prescribed for a month, and I wouldn't have any problems with dependency. However, he and my PCP have conflicting views on which pain medication will be least likely to result in dependency or resistance to effectiveness (Nucynta vs. Oxycodone). For now, he has put me back on bed rest. He said if I'm "lucky" (WTF is up with his seeming philosophy that this is all a matter of luck?!), I may get some relief by the end of the week. He said since what I'm feeling now seems like the same pain I was having before the injection (with the exception of a relief of pressure near my tailbone), that it may be the case that the injection was only partially effective. Or, that it could be that the pain will subside with time. 1-2 weeks!! I don't have that kind of time to be laying on my back, people! I've got shit to do, classes to prep, research to conduct, and a household to run.

Did I mention he didn't even say sorry for puncturing my spinal sack?

We trust doctors to get it right. We pay them to get it right. I understand that they're human, fallible. But when they do make a mistake, especially one that puts a patient in such an unbelievable shitstorm of pain and financial burden, is it too much to ask that they take some sort of accountability? Something beyond telling the patient that she is just "very unlucky"?

Sunday, May 13, 2012

4 Days of Hell

 A long story short. The procedure did not go as planned. I've spent 2 of the past 4 days in the emergency room. The first time (Thursday evening) was because of severe pain and pressure I was still having after the injection.

The next day, a complication from the epidural injection appeared. The doctor evidently punctured a membrane, which left cerebrospinal fluid leaking at the injection site, causing an imablance in fluid around my brain. This caused debilitating, low-pressure headaches and nausea with any attmept to sit up, stand, or walk. After 36 hours in this condition, I was in the ER this morning to receive a blood patch. This process takes blood from my arm, which is then injected into the epidural area to "patch" the hole where the cerebrospinal fluid is leaking. The procedure went quickly, and the relief was almost immediate. I'm on bedrest for the day, and I still have some back pain, but the odds are in my favor now (95% success rate). Some tenderness at the epidural site, but headaches are gone!

Wednesday, May 09, 2012

A Pain in the ...

Back. A tremendous amount of pain in my back as a result of what the MRI showed to be a herniated disc and arthritis in my lower spine. I've dealt with problems from Degenerative Disc Disease in my neck for several years now, but this is new. Evidently I hurt myself somehow while painting the dining room in March. My primary care physician (PCP) declared it a muscle spasm, said she saw no reason for imaging, and prescribed pain meds, muscle relaxers, and steroids. Oh, and she was totally condescending and treated me like a drug-seeking junkie off the street by saying, "If this isn't enough then you'll have to be in the hospital on IV pain meds." Alrighty then...

So, off I went, out of commission for a week, but feeling better at the end of that time. Until a week or two later, when the pain not only came back, but returned even worse. I went to see the doctor at the pain management clinic, and he ordered an x-ray, which he knew wouldn't turn up anything, but he had to go through the process for insurance to approve an MRI. I had the MRI, we got a diagnosis, and the pain got worse, almost daily and to the point where it hurt to sit for any length of time. Back in his office last week and we scheduled what he said was the best treatment option: injections to the nerve area in the back. Oh shit.

Well, you see, he tried to do that with my neck earlier in the year and it didn't go so well. Actually, I screamed at the top of my lungs, jumped in some of the worst pain I've ever felt, and he refused to go any further. We ended up having to do the procedure at a surgery center with me under sedation. Sedation is good. Needles in my neck with nothing but a local?? Not good.

He asked me last week if I'd had an epidural during any of my deliveries. I said, "Of course! With all three!" He assured me that the injections were just like an epidural. No worse pain than that and only a little longer. He did say that I would likely need more than one round of injections because the affected area was fairly large, and he also prescribed a large dose of Xanax which I'm supposed to take 30 minutes before the procedure. It's supposed to calm me down.

Fast forward to Sunday night. Until then, the pain medication he'd prescribed was working fine. Granted, it would only last about 4 hours, but it generally took care of the pain. On Sunday evening the pain got much worse, and by Monday afternoon, the pain meds weren't doing anything to help. This level of pain has continued until now. It hurt to sit (even on the couch), lie down, walk, bend over...just about anything. I've tried combining the pain medication with a pain patch (Lidoderm, a very low-level surface analgesic) and Advil, to no avail. My injection procedure was scheduled for tomorrow, but I was in such excruciating pain yesterday, I called the office and asked if there was any chance I could get in earlier. They'd had a cancellation today at 4:00, so I'm heading in later this afternoon.

And, I'm terrified! I had no problem with any of my epidurals, but I'm pretty sure it had something to do with the fact that a) I'd already been given Stadol and b) there was that whole process of labor keeping my attention diverted. The problem is that if I can't go through the procedure without sedation, they'll have to go through the surgical center again. Because my doctor doesn't regularly work there, he has to simply wait and get his patients "worked in" to their existing schedule, which can take forever! For example, I've been waiting on them to schedule my next neck procedure for almost 4 weeks now. Thank God my neck hasn't been giving me any problems lately.

I'm the first to admit that I've never had a high tolerance for pain. I really don't care, though, because last time I checked, nobody gives out any kind of awards for pain tolerance. I'm not saying that sedation is the only option, but I definitely need to NOT feel a giant needle in my back. I have no problem with needles. I give blood regularly, I've donated plasma, and I've had plenty of IVs. No issue with needles, as long as the person operating them gets it right the first try. The problem is that the area already hurts really fucking bad! So please, please don't make it hurt worse with your giant needle full of drugs that burn!

Hubby has suggested that I take a leather strip in to bite on while they do the injections. I know the doctor is terrified my screams will be heard by everyone in the waiting room. I'm just terrified I'll be stuck in this pain indefinitely and with no relief. And all of this is to still to say that there's no guarantee the injections will work!! I've heard from several friends who said injections didn't work, so they had to have the disc removed. Some people responded well to physical therapy but not injections. Others responded well to a combination. And one didn't get relief from *either* injections or PT, but rather deep-tissue massage. Holy shitballs people!

Seriously folks, keep me in your thoughts, prayers, meditations, whatever. Send lots of happy, calm, pain-free vibes my way.

Tuesday, May 08, 2012

This is a first

I have just entered final grades for my second section of Shakespeare, and I had one student--a graduating senior!!--who failed.

Ze was within 2 points of a 59, which I would have rounded up to a 60 (a -D- grade). But instead, ze's complete lack of discussion board posts, two failed exams, half a dozen failed quizzes, and one failed essay (out of two) result in this student not walking the stage on Saturday. I understand that this is not my fault, nor is it a reflection of my teaching skills, but I really hate the situation.

Take note kids: Do the work! It doesn't always have to be stellar, but if you just put forth some serious effort on occasion, that will usually get you something other than an -F-.

Monday, May 07, 2012

Did I Mention...

I'm going to Guatemala??

Yes, I am, in November. I am part of a missionary team from my church, and we're going to Guatemala to perform service (electrical, construction, brick and concrete work, and painting) at the Guatemala Bible Institute. This is my first mission trip, and it's never something I thought of doing before. However, when I heard about the location, I immediately knew I had to join. My grandfather, who died young, did missionary work in Guatemala. He was one of the best men I've ever known, and if I can do anything that resembles following in his footsteps, I will be doing something good. He was a self
less, hard-working man who never knew a stranger. I have no idea what the trip holds for me personally, but I hope I will be able to make myself of use to others in some way.

Shakespeare Success

Maybe I shouldn't break my arm trying to pat myself on the back, but I'm thinking that it's something to be proud of that not a single student failed in either of my sections of Shakespeare. I had one D in each class, and the rest were primarily Bs and Cs. That's pretty good, right? I think most of my students learned more than they expected to, and several indicated that they really enjoyed the class and learned to appreciate the Bard for the first time. I don't normally take much credit at all for the success my students have, but considering it was my first time teaching Shakespeare, perhaps I got a few things right :)

Wednesday, May 02, 2012

Something Positive For a Change

My Dad flew to New England State last Thursday and met his youngest granddaughter for the first time! I stayed until Sunday, and he was able to spend quality time with each of the girls and myself. He took the family out to dinner to celebrate Hubby's birthday, then he accompanied Hannah and I at our weekly youth group meeting on Friday. To end the visit, he and I went out for drinks and to chat about things that we really haven't discussed in almost 20 years. We cleared the air, me explaining that I don't hold anything against him and that I've forgiven him, but I also need him to be there as a father 365 days a year, not just every few months of so when he calls or sends an e-mail. It was a really, really good visit, and I'm hopeful that it will mark a change in our relationship moving forward. He's offered to pay for us to fly down to Arkansas and stay at his house for a short vacation, so we're working on the details of that for the end of the summer. The girls fell in love with him, of course. It probably didn't hurt that he spoiled them rotten the whole time he was here. It made my heart happy to see them have such a good time with him.

We also got good tax news! The good news is that we don't owe anything, but rather we'll be getting a refund--woohoo!! This doesn't mean any spending will be happening. It simply means that we'll finally have our safety net back in place after getting wiped out by the cost of replacing the transmission on one of our vehicles in December and electrical repairs made to the house just after we moved in. A refund means I can breathe a little sigh of relief.

And, we've confirmed our plans to spend a week in Ocean City, N.J. for the 4th of July week! It's something great to look forward to, and the kids always have a great time. Hubby's dad is taking the week off work, so we'll get to see him, and since we're staying at my in-laws' shore house, we won't break the bank for this trip. I love Ocean City, so I'm absolutely thrilled that we get to go back this summer!