Wednesday, August 28, 2013

LUMBAR FUSION - The Eleventh Month and tee shirts

 In the delivery room . . . no, this isn't the wrong post.  Decades ago, I learned in a maternity ward far away that my legs are very short from the knee to the ground.  What this has to do with recovery after spinal fusion is A LOT.

From that night a over a year ago when I couldn't walk from the car to the apartment with my food, leg pain, much or little, has been a recurring problem. The second round of shots, the new anesthesiologist, and the heavy medicine didn't stop the pain in my legs.  Fast forward, well, not exactly fast, because I resisted the surgery, and some friends and acquaintances insisted I must not have it. 

The surgery was a success.  The cane is left at home.  The fusion is strong, and my spine area has rarely hurt.  

The legs, however,  sometimes hurt a bit, sometimes more than a bit.   (I suspect that I put off the surgery too long.)  When they hurt a little bit, I elevate them.  When they hurt at night, I rest them on a very firm pillow.  Sometimes just a change of position is enough.

I emailed the surgeon weeks ago when they hurt more than a bit.  He emailed me exactly what his assistant told me long ago: Get up and do things every half hour - no long sitting.  Hard for the computer addict, the coffee shop addict. Solution - A timer on the desk set for a half hour.  Solution - If all else fails, a snack if I get up after half an hour.

What I know is, tall chairs have taken a toll on these short legs--long before surgery. My feet just don't reach the floor.   Adjustable desk chairs save me.  I prop my legs up still, to take the pressure of chair edges off my thighs.  I have a box under the dining room table for a footstool.   Since I no longer wear heels, I finally had to be firm about tall chairs.   And an hour in a pew at church is out of the question.

Like life, recovery has been a roller coaster, not an escalator, as my fall in the fifth or six month showed.  I had a slight setback after that, which lasted awhile.   A couple of months ago, I had another setback for no reason I can think of. 

 I'm  walking every day at the same time, farther and farther without weakness.  Whether I have five minutes or an hour, I want the walk to be so automatic that I feel antsy if I don't do it.  

I climb the library stairs without a cane.  I get down on my knees to clean under the bed.  And get back up without calling for an EMT. 

If something is too heavy, I don't lift it.  This recovery has called for a lot of creativity, especially how to tie shoes without bending.

If you already have a job, you go back to work as soon as you can after surgery, and do what you can.  But if your job was a casualty of the recession, it's hard to get back in the game after recovery.  Even if, in some ways,  you're in better shape than before.

When I was first diagnosed, I wanted the tee shirt I saw that said:

I do my own stunts
 Now I want a tee shirt that says:

Hire me.  I'll race you to the stairs.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Health: A book I never leave behind . . .

I saw someone reading this book years ago, got one for myself.  I believe it keeps me taking care of my health.  I've quoted it so many times.  This is real evidence, not just opinion.

Henry Dreher
It's hard to find now.  I wish you good luck hunting for it.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

The Sign I Want to Tear Down

I just read an article by Vineet Arora, MD, (The Broken Window.. .) on Kevin, MD.  One paragraph reminded me of something I always intended to blog about, or give a public demonstration (noisy) about:

The signs on memorial medical buildings  ( and some other medical buildings) that strike gloom in my heart.  Signs, often carved in stone, like:


In all seriousness, with apologies where needed, isn't the message: Sam went to these doctors, and he died.  Why do I want to go here? 
It might as well say:  Abandon Most Hope, Ye Who Enter Here

In other life circumstances, we don't usually see buildings that say in stone:

Smith and Witherspoon, Bankruptcy
Maxwell, and Earhardt, Divorce since 1889

Most of us grew up in an age when cancer was likely to be a death guarantee.   There is a place where a beloved doctor of mine had an office for awhile.  I was not going to him for cancer, but I hated that Cancer Center sign.

If you were giving massive sums for a new medical building, what would you call it?  What about:
Meredith Smith Vital Health Building

Regina Maxwell Healing Building

What do you think?  Please let me know.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Read this if you've ever been a patient; if your loved one has been one

Please go to Open Spaces, Sacred Places for today, the 16th, and see the poster saying how much faster patients recover if they can see nature.

Please nag them for a copy of the poster to send to an architect who doesn't get it yet.  To a hospital board of directors who don't get it yet.

Please.  The life you save may . . .even be your own.

SPINE FUSION . . . things I needed, one that no one talks about

 From diagnosis to that ambulance ride in the darkness; from the day I left that hospital with a walker to the day I left rehab; and until now, there were things that could have made the months better and safer. 

First a confession.  As I may have mentioned, before diagnosis, I did something foolish while taking apart a drafting table.  I needed someone with common sense to say STOP! 

After that, I needed a platform in the trunk of my car that would have avoided dangerous bending and lifting.  I could lift my trunk lid; I can't lift the hatches on late model SUVs.  But the bottom of the trunk was a problem.

I needed, and will always need, chairs that are not too big for me.  Luckily, at home, I had my "posture chair" that let me rest and an ottoman to put my feet up.  I had an adjustable desk chair, but it was too much pushing and pulling to get it near the desk in thick carpet.

I had good closets in the hills and later in the valley, but it still took unhealthy and forbidden bending to get my laundry off the floor and to get anything I dropped.  After rehab, I had someone to do my laundry, but she never quite "got it" that if she left something on a low shelf, I might not be able to get it until her next visit.

I needed a guardian angel to tie my good walking shoes, so I wore out my glossy leather clogs instead.   I still can barely tie the oxfords without too much bending--a struggle.

I needed a fridge and washer and dryer at waist height. 

But there is no gadget for something that is still a slight problem - the home equivalent of the pedicure!  The simple act of being able to reach down safely and take care of my toenails!  Got solutions?  Contact me at once!

Sunday, August 11, 2013


Yesterday's Pulse  story, BITTER MEDICINE, though the events happened in the past, made me want to fight.  This scandalous New York hospital story arrived on the same day I found out that Texas, where I'm currently living, received a grade of F on its nursing homes and their treatment of patients.

  I  have been incredibly blessed with great doctors.  And the California hospital where I had some unfriendly hours at least had a patient advocate. 

But, Bitter Medicine was a forceful reminder that some of us may find one day that our good luck with hospitals has run out.  Some days we are tired out and go home unwilling to fight against bad treatment.  When worse treatment shocks us, we have no stock of powerful resources to turn to.  Since some doctors rely on the hospitals where they practice, how can they be a loud voice against bad and dangerous treatment and spotty staff supervision?

Who does this leave except the insurance companies, the state government, and brave voices like Dr. Krumholz of Yale, or others from the leading medical schools? 

Have you had a bad hospital experience?  Where did you go for solutions?

Monday, August 5, 2013

Prevention and something to read

 I urge you to read the article (with actual stats) on exercise and cancer prevention.
 on Kevin, MD, Newsletter or on Dr. Salwitz's own blog, Sunrise Rounds.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Protecting Babies' Eyes!

I have a cataract I try diligently to protect from getting larger.  One has already been removed.  Each day as I walk with my UV protected glasses under heavy dark sunglasses, I see mothers wearing sunglasses pushing fair-skinned babies who are in the sun with no hat and no sunglasses.  The shade top on the carriage or stroller, if there is a top, is rarely used.  I long to give the moms a lecture, a scolding, or something. 

When I had babies, we didn't know about the sunglasses, and often babies were in the sun.  Sun hats were rare. Sun worship was in.  Then I grew up and learned about cataracts. My daughter grew up and found the sunglasses for her baby.

Today I searched this topic on the web.  The first doctors'  articles mentioned babies born with vision problems, also lots of cures.  NO mention of protection from the sun.  There were plenty of ads for baby sunglasses.

Before I gave up, I found this:

Friday, August 2, 2013

Doctors, medicine, and something you may like to read

After an irritating phone call with a doctor's office, I felt blessed and amused to see almost at once something great on PULSE 
Please look it up tonight on the web and read the wonderful poem
Escape from Chemo.  And the story of the poet and her life!
Be well.