Saturday, May 8, 2010

Surgery # 16

WARNING: This blog contains pictures of life right after my operation. If you are easily grossed out or squeamish you might want to skip this blog.

April 27th came and went. Everything went well during surgery #16. I forgot how bad fusions hurt. I am still swollen, bruised, and in a ton of pain. Since I am typing with one hand and in a tremendous amount of pain, I decided to post pictures from the last 11 days.

Fusion of index and long finger CMC joints

Swollen and purple

Sporting the sweet fanny pack that was holding my lidocaine pump

Monday I noticed that I had extreme swelling in my legs and feet

A quick trip to the ER to make sure there were no clots in my legs and chest. Everything was fine, just a bad case of kankles.

Fraken-Arm. Every time they take the post surgery wrap off I always am in shock.

Fake it till you make it.

I have been well taken care of by my parents and friends. I am so fortunate and blessed to have such wonderful people in my life.

Hope I did not make anyone throw up or pass out.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

My fiction beats the hell out of my truth...

These are the times that I feel my back is against the wall. With my back against the wall, a hand is around my throat and the grasp is moving upwards, and I am doing everything I can to keep my toes on the floor so I can remain breathing. The pre-surgery anxiety is hitting me like a ton of bricks; my heart feels like it is constantly fluttering, I am constantly trying to regulate my breathing, and I am fighting throughout the day to not cry. On the 27th of this month I am going in for surgery #16 on my right wrist (this also is surgery #3 in a 10-month period). I am more anxious of this surgery because of all of the complications that I experienced during my last surgery in September. During that surgery I was given too much pain medicine that I stopped breathing, then was given too little anesthesia and was not “asleep” when the surgeon make the incision on my back, my corneas were scratched during the procedure, and my spinal cord was nicked which gave me a headache every time I stood up for 3 months. With every surgery you acknowledge there can be complications, but after 14 surgeries of everything going well I was dumbfounded after my surgery in September. I feel with each surgery I have, I take a step closer to the risk/complication category. It can happen, it did happen, would it happen again? When is my luck going to run out? If I do have complications again, how serious are they going to be and how will they effect my life? So besides the usual anxiety, a million “what ifs?” are bouncing around in my brain and I am plagued with more worry then I have ever experienced before. I am finding it hard to quell my mind and reassure myself that “everything will be ok.” I try to have faith, but my faith wavers on a daily basis (I do wish I had more of it). I feel alone right now. I know of no one who has gone through what I have been through or any situation that is kind of like my own. If I try to talk to someone about what I am thinking or how I am feeling I get the standard head bobbing/raised eyebrows/forced smile with the responses “everything will be fine” or “you have been through so many surgeries, don't worry.” I know their responses are of reassurance or because it is the standard thing to say to someone, but it makes me want to scream and yell "SHUT UP!" Instead of all the positive/standard responses I would love someone to say “your situation is shitty and fucked up.” I know to a normal person that would be harsh, but a statement like that actually acknowledges what I have been through/am going through and how I feel at this very moment. Amongst the anxiety, the only positive that I can see now is the possibility of the scope finding out why my thumb is hurting so much and the fusion can possibly lessen some of the pain that I am experiencing. I know this blog contradicts what I have said in past blogs. Yes, I know “everything happens for a reason” and “where I am is exactly where I am suppose to be,” but as of right now those thoughts are on “vacation” until the 28th (the day after surgery).

Saturday, March 13, 2010

I drank to drown my pain....

Frida Kahlo once said, “I drank to down my pain, but the damned pain learned how to swim. Now I am overwhelmed by this decent and good behavior.”

I was a social drinker since I turned 18 and left for college. I socially drank on the weekends, never to the point where I would consider it to be a problem. About 3 years into my injury, drinking became my primary pain reliever. I was only prescribed 40 pain pills a month. For people who are not dealing with a significant injury and chronic pain, those 40 pills would be substantial. 40 pain pills a month for me meant there would be days I would not be able to take pain medicine. With chronic pain, I am in pain 24 hours a day, even in my sleep I dream about pain. Since the pills were pretty average in strength, I had to take 2 pills to lessen the pain an insignificant amount (but it was something). If I took 2 pain pills, then I would only have enough for 20 days. Most days I needed 2 pills in the morning and 2 at night, so that means I had enough medicine for 10 days. I told the doctor about my situation and he said he was “giving me what he could.” I knew of people with back pain or menstrual pain that were getting 120 pain pills a month. My wrist was fused, titanium holding fragments of bones in between my wrist joints, and I was in constant pain and I only could get 40 a month! Drinking was the only option I could think of. I would do what I had to do during the day so I could start drinking. The quicker I could drink, the quicker my pain would lessen. Obviously this is not the safest way to relieve pain. The pain pills had Tylenol in them; Tylenol and alcohol are not good for the liver and used together are very damaging to the liver.

I would go to the bar during the day and sit among the Vietnam veterans who were drowning their pain of PTSD and war wounds. As they were talking about the battles they survived in Vietnam and the metal and bullets in their body, I would think about my “war wounds.” We, the veterans and I, were trying to drown the pain of trauma and the relief we felt was only temporary. I eventually stopped going to the bar because I did not want to socialize, I was there for relief. As the pain got more severe over the years, my drinking increased. I knew I had a problem in the Fall of 2008, I asked a friend for a Big Book. At the time I asked for the book, I wanted information and yet had no plans to stop. I fit all of the descriptions in the book, yet I was left with a hard decision. Knowing I had a problem, but knowing if I stopped drinking I would be left without the “tool” I used to lessen my pain and make it though the day. I wish I realized how detrimental my choice of pain relief was going to be. After a really bad night of drinking and having no recollection of 72 hours of my life, I knew that I needed help. I got that help.

I am now sober. Along with my wrist doctor, I am also seeing a wonderful pain management doctor that put me on a stronger amount of pain medicine that actually helps with my pain. I had a Spinal Cord Stimulator implanted in July and this device sends stimulation to my wrist. The stimulator helps with pain and also changes the brains perception of pain too. This has helped with my pain a lot. I am still in pain, but I do not have that hopeless all consuming pain feeling. I love Frida’s quote, I feel that it perfectly describes my life (past and present). I tried to drown the pain, physical and mental, yet when I would sober up the pain was still there. Sobriety has changed my life; it also has saved my life too. I am dealing with my pain, instead of trying to stifle it. Some days my pain is unbearable, but in my head I know like all things, it will pass.I am dealing with the fears that come with the pain and the uncertain future in regards to my wrist, my ability to work, etc. I am dealing with life as it comes my way. But when it comes down to it, I don’t miss being numb, not even a little bit.

Photo Credit: Darkman Photography.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Still broken...

My best friend Rachel asked me out to lunch on Friday.
She sprained her ankle playing soccer.
We were quite the spectacle at the mall.
The picture cracks me up!

My brain is turning to mush.
My fracture is still pretty bad.
3 more weeks of no walking and a new cast.
I am writing, but then I look at it and it just seems like babble.
Hopefully I will have something to post by tomorrow night.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Life as of now.

Here is what life looks like from eyes right now.
My friends and family have taken really good care of me this past week.
I have been writing, but I don't feel like editing.
I am almost done with my one person pity party.
So bare with me.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Gimp Life

As I finished writing my post on Wednesday (February 12th) there was a sense of calmness that came over me. Writing about what has happened to me over the last nine and a half years and the feelings that I have experienced has given me a bit of peace. The calmness I felt on Wednesday was short lived. I got up from my kitchen table and took three steps, and on the third step I heard/felt a crack. Immediately I thought “oh shit, I just broke my foot.” I tried to walk it off and was able to do so until my adrenaline stopped. I looked down to see a large bulge protruding from my foot. As I was sitting in the ER I kept thinking about how I just wrote “everything happens for a reason” and then this happens. I then thought about the chain of events that started Monday night. I was supposed to fly to Baltimore on Tuesday, but on Monday night I got a call from the airline that the flight was canceled and postponed till Thursday because of weather. Wednesday morning I was watching the weather knowing that I probably was not going to fly out on Thursday so I was going to flip my trip around and start with my ending city first, Boston, and then go to Baltimore on the 19th. After finding flights and finishing up my blog post, I fractured my foot and could not go on my trip even if the weather cleared up. So here I am typing with a fractured 5th metatarsal and a severe ankle injury. I am in a beautiful black cast up to my knee and not able to walk for the next three weeks. In three weeks I am scheduled for a cast change where I might get another cast or granted a beautiful moon boot. There is a possibility that if I am not healing correctly I might need surgery to fix the fracture, I will know more in three weeks. I am in possession of crutches and a grandma walker, but both of these helpful aides aren’t so helpful when you cannot put pressure on a fused wrist. So I have been hopping around my house on one foot hoping that I do not fall and break something else. Now I on looking at renting one of these fine pieces of gimp equipment Oh life, you keep me on my toes. Life happens. Life happens beyond our control. I have three weeks of nothing to do and I could sit here and try to figure out why things happened this week or nine and a half years ago, but I am not. Life is better and more exciting when it is not planned out. Though I would be content without having a fractured foot and would be extremely happy if I was in the company of my friends on the other coast.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

I wish...

I am a lucky girl. I am lucky to have an amazing/wonderful/loving/supportive family, loving friends, and a pretty blessed life so far. But at times I wish to be “normal,” whatever “normal” may be. Normal in the sense that my life is not consumed with doctor appointments, daily calls to a paralegal who does not call me back, surgeries every 4 to 6 months, injections of medicine that makes me feel horrible for a week and only ok for about a month, and daily doses of pain medicine that make me sick and nonfunctioning. I miss the little things that I once took for granted. I wish I could carry my bags full of groceries in both hands, instead of loading the bags on to one hand and struggling to make it from where I parked my car to my front door. I wish I could wake up at 7am and work a normal nine to five job and earn a salary that I could live on (I am currently receiving 2/3rds of what I was making in 2000). I wish I could pour my soymilk into my cereal with my right hand and not with my left hand. I wish I could only see a doctor when I am sick, not having three or more doctor appointments a month. I wish I could do an intense arm work out with five pound weights and finish up with a set of push-ups. I wish people could feel the pain that I experience just for a brief moment so they could understand what I feel on a daily basis. I wish people would keep their stupid comments and jokes about me being “lazy” and “using the system” and referring to my bi-monthly checks as “sitting on your couch money” to themselves. And the biggest wish of all, I wished I did not wake up in pain, have pain all day, and dream about my pain while I am sleeping. Honestly, I would give anything to have just one day that is pain free.

Don’t get me wrong things could be worse, that I know. I could have been injured more severely. I might not know why my life went in the direction it did on October 4th, 2000, but it did. I use to take life and other things for granted. For a long time after my injury I would get mad because the life I wanted was not the life that I was experiencing. When people would tell me “everything happens for a reason,” I wanted to punch them in the face because they weren’t going through what I was going through. But then I realized everything DOES happen for a reason and having a “victim mentality” is not going to get me anywhere.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Save your breath. Just call me Bionic!!!!

I have been waiting for the approval of my 16th arm surgery since June of 2009. Workers Compensation has denied all requests and appeal letters submitted by my doctor. Because of the denials, I had to go to an AME evaluation in Newport Beach. To put it simply, an AME evaluation is a really really really long doctors appointment. You go over every single detail of yourself and what you have experienced with your work related injury with a qualified doctor that is picked/agreed on by the lawyer and the Worker Compensation adjustor. Whatever this doctor says goes. This doctor agrees that I should have my 16th surgery. So this weekend I was reading the evaluation packet that was sent to me and started laughing while reading this very long sentence that the doctor uses to describe my injury. Here it is:

"The ACOEM Guidelines do not address complicated cases such as Ms. E's chrondromalacia of the lunate fossa of the distal radius, slight chondromalacia of the scaphoid fossa of the distal radius, the dorsal capsular tear of the lunate and triquetrum with dorsal lunotriquetral ligament detachment and lunotriquertal instability, the lunotriquetral fusion and dorsal radio-luno-triquetral ligament advancement capsulodesis with findings of dorsal proximal pole of lunate arthritis, the removal of the 4mm ossicle from between the TFCC and the base of the ulnar styloid, the ulnar styloid shortening for ulnar styloid/carpal abutment, and the TFCC repair, the Darrach procedure (removal of the ulnar head) and the pronator quadratus transfer to the dorsal ulna, the arthroscopic findings of a stable lunotriquetral joint, intact radioscaphoid and radiolunate cartilage, mild scapholunate ligament laxity, and minimal chondromalacia of the midcarpal joint, the midcarpal fusion (four corner limited carpal arthrodesis) for midcarapal arthritis, the removal of the lunotriquetral screw from healed lunotriquetral fusion, the posterior interosseous neurectomy for denervation of the dorsal wrist, the removal of the midcarapal fusion hardware from the healed midcarpal fusion, the right total wrist arthrodesis, the removal of hardware from the healed total right wrist arthrodesis for dorsal wrist pain over the hardware, the removal of the triquetrum and pisiform bones with neurolysis of the superficial branch of the ulnar nerve, and the current pain at the right first, second, and thirst carpometacarpal joints due to the strain on those three joints increasing as a result of the entire wrist being fused."

One paragraph and one really long run-on sentence!!!!!

If you can recite that to me perfectly with out messing up I will give you a lollipop.

I personally think he should have saved his breath and said "Ms. E is bionic and needs a bionic tune up."

Sunday, February 7, 2010

A little bit of mental peace goes a long way

A week before my 30th birthday I found the boy who bit me on Myspace (he was 18 at the time I wrote him). This is the letter.

I always think about the kids that I use to work with. I particularly think about you. Why do I think about you? For what I am about to write I hope you take it with a grain of salt. In a selfish way, me contacting you is for me. This message comes with no attached blame or ill feelings; this is my chance to close a chapter in my life that I have been dealing with for almost 8 years.

I was covering for a staff member on your unit one Wednesday almost 8 years ago. And you injured me. Injuries happened to staff, you were not the only kid that injured me. Unfortunately the injury that I got has dramatically changed my life. I have had 11 surgeries on my wrist because of this injury, and have not been able to work since that day.

Funny thing is I know what happened to me is NOT your fault. You were the product of an environment; I too would have probably acted the way you did if I was in your situation. I am writing you to let you know of the power you have, the power that we (as humans) forget that we have. The ability to affect someone’s life intentional and/or unintentional; at times we forget that there is always a reaction to an action. I would assume that your actions for that day were not to injure me in the severity that you did. But it happened; it was my job and always knew that something could have happened to me. I blame the center, for the conditions that you lived in and for the conditions the staff had to work in.

You were a great kid. You were part of the running group that I started, I told the music teacher that you were gong to be a football player one day because you were so quick and fast. As I said, I think of the kids I worked with in the past and hope that they have succeeded in life.

Once again, this letter was my selfish way for closure; take it for whatever it is worth. I am not asking for anything but for you to listen and remember the power that you have.

I wish you the best and hope for many good days to come.

I feel as humans, we do forget that for every action there is a reaction. Most of the time it is a reaction that might not have caused anything serious in ones life. But at times, an unintentional action sets forth a reaction that is life changing. We might not know of this impact, positive or negative, because we just go on with life. Would you want to know if you changed someone's life dramatically? Or is it best not knowing?

Saturday, February 6, 2010

October 4, 2000

When I woke up on October 4th, 2000 I wish that I had a premonition or a flash of what was going to happen to me in a few hours. If I had that glimpse into the future I would have done some push ups or may be even a cartwheel before I left for work. Even if I had that glimpse into the future, I would not have called into work. I was in a financial crunch, working every overtime and time and a half shift I could get my hands on. October 4th was a Wednesday. I already worked 40 hours and was picking up a shift on a unit that was not the unit I normally worked on. It had a notorious reputation of being disorganized, bad tempered kids, and lots of incidents. I should have known when I walked in the door that the day was not going to be a good one. Instead of three staff members on the unit, it was myself and one other female (let it be noted that this female already worked an overnight shift and had two hours left of her shift). The kids were already acting out, egging their fellow peers on through their doorways. As we brought the kids into the morning circle to start the processing group, whatever control was gained earlier was gone. The kid who assaulted me stated that his goal for the day was to “kick ass.” WHY DIDN’T I RUN OUT OF THERE! That statement sent the kids into a frenzy. We shuffled the kids back to their rooms thinking breakfast in their rooms away from each other was the only way we were going to keep some kind of order. A radio started to play loudly, banging of drawers and shouts of insults filled the air. I walked into the room and stood there face to face with the kid that was going to change my life in 10 minutes. This was not a normal ten year old that I was facing. Besides being 5’ 6” and 180lbs and some sort of Pacific Islander descent, he was filled with a ton of rage and hate from years of abuse that he endured from his mother. He was a ward of the state; women were his enemy. I could have been a fairy godmother with a magic wand that would have granted him a million wishes, but he would just see me as his hateful abusive mother. I asked him to turn the radio off and listed the consequences he would receive if he did not follow directions. Insults were thrown my way and the other staff member walked into the room. She tried to calm him down as I stepped outside of his room. I walked back in there a few minutes later to pure chaos. The boy was trying to lasso the cord of the radio around the neck of the other staff member. I ran to the office, grabbed scissors, and ran into his room. I gave him his options and he gave me insults. I cut the cord and ran out of there screaming for back up. As I hurled the scissors down the hall a male staff member came in as the boy was charging at me with his arm swinging. We decided to take him down into a prone (a restraint technique we learned if someone was violent). As I slid my right arm under his left armpit he grabbed on to my wrist with his teeth and would not let go. As we were trying to get him down to the ground, he was trying to go in the opposite direction. My arm was going one way, my body another. When we finally made it to the ground, he still would not let go. Other staff members came in, tried to get his mouth off my arm but nothing worked. The cops were called, and when they entered the building he finally let go. So there it is. This is the incident that changed my life forever. This is the incident that made me have 15 surgeries (16 in March), loose all function and movement in my dominant hand, and made me get a stimulator running up my spinal cord giving me constant shocks to help ease the chronic pain that I deal with on a daily basis. Sad part, I made $15.25 for what I went through that morning (actually less because I had to pay taxes).

Surgery #11

Surgery #11 was horrible. By far the worst one in regards to pain. I had to dump my pills out on to my vanity because I did not ask for non-child proof lids. Child proof lids are the devil to a woman who just had a 6 inch plate installed with a bunch of screws and a bone graft. Any slight movement of any part of my body caused intense and unbearable pain in my arm. After surgery I would sit on my edge of my bed and look at my reflection, then look at the picture that the doctor gave me in the recovery room of my wrist(see above), and then I would look at the pills spread all over the vanity. Darkman, the man who took the picture, recreated that moment perfectly 2 weeks later!!!!

Friday, February 5, 2010

"Normal" vs Bionic

X-ray #1: Bionic Wrist
X-ray #2: Normal Wrist

The x-ray of my wrist is after 13 surgeries. All but 2 joints have been fused (that will change in March when I go in for another joint fusion) and 3 bones have been removed. Yes, all of this is because I got injured while working at a group home in 2000. I will post that story a different day...I need to let out the juicy details slowly so I can keep you all coming back.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Here I go.

Here I am, ready to join the masses and start a blog. I am ready to ramble about my exciting life to some and not so exciting life to others. At first, I was going to write random rants and thoughts, but then decided I would like to write about my experiences with workers compensation, lawyers, surgeries, doctor appointments, chronic pain and other "exciting" events that happen because of my work related injury. I am hoping this blog will help someone new to the workers compensation system and help prepare them for the constant hoop jumping that they are about to endure. I wish when I was twenty-two (when my work injury happened) there was a blog out there that prepared me for what I was about to go through. I guess that is the main reason why I am about to put my last nine and a half years out there, hoping it can/will help someone. I am sure there will be some random thoughts, stories, and rants thrown into this blog…my life is interesting to say the least. At times, we all need a laugh (even if it is at the expense of ourselves) to spice up the day. So sit down and hold on, get ready to experience one full-on non-stop mind fuck of a life, MY LIFE!