Posts Tagged ‘RA’

Are we having fun yet?

Friday, April 5th, 2013

I’m still feeling sluggish and useless after yesterday’s “adventure in medical science”, and am banned from continuing any of my physical therapy exercises (here at home or at the clinic) for my dislocated shoulder for a week. . . . feeling bummed out!  Despite my overly- extensive experience with medical tests/procedures/surgeries, the  “adventure” (an ultrasound-guided needle biopsy of my liver) was more of a challenge than I had expected!  There were all of the usual pre-test rules and regulations, of course:

1) Nothing to eat or drink after midnight. 2) Do not take any medication on the morning of the procedure. 3) Arrive at the hospital at 7 am. . . . . although the test is scheduled for whatever o’clock.. . . .in my case, 9:30am.

Complying with rule #1 is usually quite simple. . . go to sleep before midnight!  I tried – I honestly did try – but sleep apparently wasn’t on the menu!  Coping with rule #2 is, I suspect, a somewhat thorny issue for nearly everyone “of a certain age”; if you’re not on blood-pressure meds (I’m not) or heart meds (I am), than you are probably on some form of pain medication (yes, between my RA and the afore-mentioned shoulder damage). If you happen to live anywhere in the great state of Texas, (especially in spring) you are probably miserable without your allergy meds, too! (Yep!)  Rule #3 probably isn’t a huge issue for some (or most?); in many cases, it allows one to leave the house later than usual because the hospital is closer than the office. In my case, it required ending my quest for sleep at 5 am to shake off the morning RA stiffness and engage Tom’s help in getting dressed and taming my hair ( because my left arm isn’t very useful at this time, donning a t-shirt is an acrobatic feat and the “simple” tasks of tying shoes and gathering my long hair into a barrette are impossible).

I realized that rescheduling this test (it was originally on the calendar for the day after my less-than-elegant battle with gravity at our son’s new house) before my shoulder had ‘fully healed’ was going to make the morning more difficult, but I want the results of the test sooner rather than ‘whenever’. I knew that getting out of my street clothes & into the ever-horrible hospital gown, trying to get positioned not-so-comfortably on the gurney, pulling my left arm forward with my right hand for blood tests and such was going to add a new dimension to “business as usual” –  but somehow forgot that I would be doing all of this without any of my pain meds – Duh!  Normally, the 7 – 9:30 am paperwork, weigh-in (they weren’t happy that I’ve dropped to 97 lbs., but then neither am I!), undressing and waiting on the gurney would have been the same-old-same old, but there was very little which was routine or comfortable this time!

Murphy’s Law showed up, too; sometimes my veins act up and it’s difficult to get an IV started, and yesterday was one of those days. It took two rather painful attempts in my right arm and an uncomfortable success in my left arm! “Can you turn your arm over more for me?” “Uh, no, I can’t.”  The biopsy itself wasn’t a picnic, but it wasn’t terrible. . . . except that I had to stay very still with my left shoulder and the IV line both yelling at me!

The doctor’s announced plan was “We’ll do the biopsy here” (X marks the spot, between two ribs) “and then have you roll into whatever position for several minutes to minimize the chance of bleeding.”  Um, what?  I called and ascertained that no rolling to either side would be necessary before rescheduling this test, because I Can’t!  Change of plan, more ultasound readings (and more ink on my torso); the X was relocated to just below my sternum and the needle with the local anesthetic was slowly and gently inserted. Obviously, it went only as far into my body as was  needful, but I began to suspect that his target was my spine! The problem with local anesthetic is that you are not numb when that needle is inserted!

Then came three long hours of lying flat on my back, not moving, to lessen the chance of internal bleeding. Ugh!  Tom brought me home at 2 pm. I had (over-optimistically, as usual) planned a short nap and some time in my studio just playing with ideas. . . .  I was so wiped out that I wasted the rest of the day alternately trying to read (couldn’t concentrate) and staring at the ceiling (it needs painting)!

I’m not allowed to lift anything heavier than our smallest cat (Noel) or do any strenuous exercises (there goes my PT) for the next five days. Right now, I’m trying to talk myself into going upstairs to my studio to see if I can accomplish something. . . .Anything!  Since the “exercise” involved in trying to catch up on e-mail is wearing me out, that feat seems somewhat doubtful.  Guess I’ll just lay here and watch the action at our backyard bird feeders!

Sorry about the whining – I know a lot of you have much more serious things going on in your lives right now.  Hugs and positive thoughts to everybody!


Christy  =^o^=

RA Triumphs and an OMG “Grandma Moment”

Friday, August 10th, 2012

Some of the medications I take in an effort to slow the damage Rheumatoid Arthritis causes (not just to joints, but also the internal organs) have side effects.  Actually, all of them do, even the various cocktails of vitamins; that’s why the close supervision of a physician is necessary.  One of the side effects is the leaching of inordinate amounts of calcium from the bones – not good ever, but even more problematic for a gal in her 60’s, when osteoporosis is a normal part of the ageing process.

This morning, I had one of those pass-or-fail appointments with my Rheumatologist. Before I met with him, I had another Dexa-Scan (bone density test) to see if two years of nightly Forteo ™ injections had strengthened my skeletal structure. My “best guess” was that the results would come back aces, as I don’t break when I fall, I bounce.  Yes, usually minus some strips of flesh, but nothing more than that.  I was still more than a little nervous when my doctor entered the examination room, though . . . . because I had three photographs of me during the trail-ride in July arranged on his desk-top!  He was going to go ballistic if my Dexa-Scan numbers were low!

I received an A+ grade on the bone density test, and will finish my course of Forteo™ in about one week!  I also got “permission” (as if I ever wait for that!) to ride as much as I wish.  I’m also on a different schedule for my Cimzia™ self-injections.  The usual (400 mg once a month)  dosage has left me with good weeks & bad weeks, so the new schedule (200mg every two weeks) should help to keep the serum level more constant.  Great news, as I simply don’t have time to feel bad!

This evening, 5 year-old Sara was helping me prepare dinner as we discussed the various wildlife she has viewed through our patio door. She listed the raccoons, possums, blue jays, cardinals, sparrows, finches, red-headed woodpeckers, cow-birds and the squirrels. Suddenly, she turned her bright blue eyes towards me and asked, “Grandma, how do squirrels get baby squirrels?”  I froze in place – for a moment, I simply froze and attempted to look thoughtful.  What I was really thinking was that I had absolutely no idea how much basic biology had already been explained by my daughter and son-in-law! What’s a grandmother supposed to do?!  After “looking thoughtful”, I answered “Hm. I’ve never really studied squirrels, Sara. Your mommy probably knows”.  Later in the evening, when she was engaged in activity with her grandpa and uncle, I told my daughter about the question. With that deer-in-the-headlights look that all parents wear at some point (and which probably more correctly describes the look I wore earlier this evening), she said that the subject hadn’t come up at home yet. “Well, brace yourself, it’s going to come up soon!”  I can picture it now: Sara asks and her parents give her the short-text, age-appropriate answer. Sara mulls over this new information for a moment, then solemnly announces “You need to tell grandma about all of this, because she doesn’t know!”  LOL!


Horses, Oh My! – Part 2 (45th Anniversary)

Sunday, July 22nd, 2012

Leaning to let "Texas" drink

 Note – I’m not slumped in the saddle; Texas needed a drink!  Look at my right hand, and you can (barely) see that I was using an extremely short rein.


It doesn’t seem possible to me that we are are old enough to be celebrating our 45th wedding anniversary, but we are!

My husband, Tom,  gave me a fabulous anniversary present this weekend! Not just a leisurely drive through the beautiful Texas Hill Country (still lush and green despite the ongoing drought)  and some shopping/browsing. Not just dinner-for-two and a relaxed over-night stay at an inn in historic Kerrville, TX.  He gave me the fulfillment of a long-held wish; to go horse-back riding again after many, many years!

By booking a two-hour trail ride for us at the Silver Spur Ranch ( in Bandera, Texas (through  the quiet meadows and often rough, rocky and  challenging terrain of the Hill Country State Natural Area,  he also showed his faith in me.  He showed me that he believed in my ability to still control a powerful  (and somewhat opinionated) 1,200 and “see the course through”.  He gave me much more than he planned; he gave me back my confidence in that ability and allowed me to prove that this was something 30+ years of severe Rheumatoid Arthritis had not taken away from me!  Sure, I walked rather oddly for a few minutes after dismounting, but so did he >grin<!

We arrived at the ranch promptly at 9am (slowing several times on the ranch road to allow an abundance of cottontails and jackrabbits to zip across)  to fill out the required health disclosures and liability waivers. “What is your riding skill level?”  I started to check ‘Experienced’ and thought,”Um, Chris, that was 45-46 years ago! ” Settled for ‘Advanced Beginner’.  “Any medical conditions which could affect your ability to complete the ride?”  Well Yes, actually several, but none I was going to let stop me from trying!  Check mark on the “No”!  After we took a short detour through the small but well-stocked gift shop (and I found a t-shirt I wanted to purchase after the trail ride ), we made our way down to the corral for a short riding ettiquette briefing (while we watched geese,  burros and a ranch dog amble through the corral and out the open gate), and then our wrangler (also a Tom) began matching up horses to riders.  (The ranch has a herd of  30 well-trained horses, and the wranglers take the matching-process seriously.)

Approximately 45 seconds before I climbed up to the mounting dock (much appreciated, as I estimate my horse was somewhere near 15.2 hands tall), my legs suddenly went sliff and very uncooperative!    I suspect that rather small portion of my brain which is reasonable and sensible surfaced long enough to scream “What on earth do you think you’re doing?” Note:  When stiff-legged, it is a bit of a challenge to act nonchalant while slipping an orthopedic shoe into the left  stirrup and attempting to sling your right leg over the horse and saddle. . . never mind capturing the right stirrup before you suffer the indignity of having the wrangler stroll over and shove your right shoe into it!  (No, he didn’t – I accomplished the “feat” on my own 😉

Others were still being matched to their mounts, so I manuvered “Texas” out of the way. He seemed interested in what I assumed was a  feed box mounted on a nearby rail, so I indulged him.  However, he wasn’t after food, he was after mischief; when he grabbed a piece of tack (a bridle)  out of the box and cheerfully flung it several feet away, we had our first discussion about appropriate behavior!  He wasn’t pleased to have his playtime interrupted, but I won the debate.

Tom was matched with “Winchester”, another sleek and handsome mount.  We soon learned that he should have been named either “Pistol” or “Glutton” – more about that later!  The wrangler lined us up. . . . youngest rider directly behind him, a couple of ranch guests, Tom on Winchester and myself bringing up the rear; it seems Texas doesn’t like anyone coming up too close behind him.  The Appaloosa directly in front of Tom’s mount had the same dislike (LOL!)

During the short portion of our ride which took us off of the Silver Spur Ranch and onto the Hill Country State Natural Area, I had my horse figured as a “plug” and assumed I would spend the entire two hours trying to urge him to keep up with the pack ~ I was wrong.  As soon as we entered the Park,  he decided we were too far from the group and should shorten the distance . . .quickly!  Well, alright then – this might be more than a slow walk through a very scenic portion of the Hill Country after all!  That is also when I realized I could indulge in a small “experiment”  (exactly the sort of behavior Tom meant to curtail by booking a trail ride -LOL!)  I held Texas to a slow walk, waited for a suitable gap to occur between myself and Tom’s horse, then kicked Texas into a canter and snuck in a short burst of speed before I had to rein him in to avoid a collision with Tom’s Winchester. It took a fair amount of “kicking” to get Texas moving, but I soon realized that a quick  flick of the reins brought immediate results.

That tactic worked rather well throughout the ride, but Winchester made the ‘stolen thrill moments’ a bit dicey.  Winchester began to display his belief that the entire ride was actually a “salad bar” set out just for his personal enjoyment!  He would drop his head and stop suddenly to munch on any inviting tufts of grass.  Horses have very strong necks  (and Winchester had a strong will) — – -once his head was down, even Tom standing in his stirrups and hauling back on the reins would not stop “Win” until he had a suitable mouthful!  (Tom’s left hand and his shoulders are sore now, and will be more so tomorrow!)  Once in awhile, Winchester would stop for another snack just as I put Texas at a canter, requiring me to pull back on the reins rather firmly, too! Hehe.

Some of the ride was uphill or down over loose, slippery shale and sharp rocks.  I am convinced that the wranglers use an alternate route if there is a rank beginner in the group, as those areas required a mix of 90% trusting the horse to pick the best route and 10% “No Way, Jose.  We’re going to try over here!”  Those areas also reminded me that it is difficult to use the reins for guidance while leaning back (or far forward)  in the saddle to maintain one’s  balance!  Those who know me (and my “luck”)  well will understand that those were also the ones I was most likely to tumble off into:)

Tom’s mount got skittish when we were stopped for a moment and there was a bit of noise under a nearby bush.  He handled Winchester beautifully, but it he was busy getting his horse under control. Busy, while Texas decided to rear, twist to the right and try to run in another direction!  Our wrangler (and half of the group) were out of sight, around a stand of trees, so my loud “Whoa!” as I tried to control Texas was their only cue there might be a problem.  It is amazing how fast long-unused instincts kick in!  Before Texas’ front hooves touched the ground,  I was reining him sharply to the left and trying to stop his ‘flight’. . . . and it worked!  Somehow, digging my feet hard into the stirrups and leaning kept me firmly in the saddle, while I had no time to think about either.  (Yes, I am feeling a bit smug about that.)  He only tried one other “You’re not the boss” move during the ride, and coping with that one on my own felt great, too!

Being a State Naatural Area, the trails aren’t cleared of small bushes, encroaching trees, big rocks, etc. – they’re left, well, natural.  That is why wranglers wear chaps (leather leggings) and long-sleeved shirts, even in the summer heat.  That’s why Tom and I wore long-sleeved shirts and our battered old Stetsons.  We did a bit of ducking, leaning and putting our heads down so that our hats took the brunt of passing leaves and branches. We also forced a few course corrections when we could see the vegetation our mounts were planning to haul us through. . . .except there wasn’t always a handy alternative :)  Winchester dragged Tom’s upper arm against a solid branch, so he had a bloody mark on his sleeve when we returned to the ranch;  I was too busy fending off tree branches to my left to notice  the one to my right. . . . it knicked a tiny hole in my elbow and then caught in the lace insert on the front of my blouse and ripped a good sized hole open. Until we got to a clearing, I didn’t know what sort of a “wardrobe malfunction” had occured!  The tear was low on the front portion of the blouse, so I didn’t have to borrow Tom’s shirt for modesty’s sake.  (I did buy that shirt I wanted, though, as my right sleeve was rather blood-soaked  by the time we returned to the ranch!)  As I texted our kids when we got back to our car, “Safe, sound & exhilerated, with just the right number of scrapes and bruises – LOL!”

All in all, a wonderful weekend!  Thank you and Happy 45th Anniversary, Tom



“Pixie Dust”, Studio Time & Horses, Oh My!

Sunday, July 15th, 2012

Big Grin – If my poor neglected blog had any readers, that title might catch their attention! LOL!

Somehow, there truly does seem to be “pixie dust” or some other magic element in the air!  I place in evidence the quarter-scale (1/4″ = 1′) New Orleans/French Quarter Balcony Vignette  at right; a kit created by Braxton Payne which had been languishing in my “Smaller Scales” storage bin for ages.  My RA damaged hands usually confine me to  larger (one-twelfth scale) projects, where 1″ = 1′; even then, some of the pieces are quite small and have a frustrating habit of  launching out of my tweezers into thin air! This was completed on July 5th, 2012 and is now on display. . . . . Finally!  Actually, it is my  third small-scale success within the past 30 days; the only plausible explanation is that I have lost my few remaining marbles!


Tiny Paper Village

This paper village is one of the projects I packed in my ” recovery busy box”  just before my surgery on March 29th. Please don’t ask me how I planned to get all of the tiny pieces cut,  assembled and mounted on the base while confined to bed ~ I obviously wasn’t thinking too clearly!  However, when I began to feel better (and mobile enough to venture upstairs to my studio/disaster area), I determined that A) It is ridiculously small, and 2) It was going to be completed somehow.  Not sure of the scale, but the US dime at the right of the village will give you an idea of just how nutty I am 😀   Work was started on this in mid-June and finished in early July 2012.  This was adventure #1. (Yes, the church bell tower is leaning rather precariously, isn’t it?!)





After completing the village, I took a deep breath and delved deeper into the Smaller Scales bin and unearthed  this 144th” scale Japanese Tea House. It is a beautifully compiled kit by Susan Karatjas    Most of the components are 1/16th” or 1/32nd”  stock. . .if they are pinched too firmly with tweezers, they either  snap in two or disappear entirely! There are several flaws in the construction of my Tea House, but I am quite proud of it. Completed July 2nd, 2012.


The mysterious powers of pixie dust still seem to be active; my current project is an English Span Green House (kit by  The scale? Quarter-scale, again! The structure has been fully glazed(“glassed”) and constructed, but I won’t post pictures until it is properly landscaped and the plant trays have seedlings in them. BTW – the small plant trays measure 5/16″ x 1/4″ and the large plant trays measure 1/2′ x 3/8″ !

Horses? Oh, yes, I did mention horses, didn’t I? In my preteen and teen years, I loved horseback riding. At every opportunity, I would exercise a friend’s horse or resort to a young rent-a-horse with some spunk still left in it. Young and still feeling invulnerable, I rode alone, jumped fences (sometimes clearing the fence while the horse stayed behind!), rode full-out when prudence would have suggested a canter, and enjoyed every minute
of it! Marriage, multiple moves, children and careers shifted any indulgence in that pastime into the “Yeah, someday” category. . . . . and then
Rheumatoid Arthritis moved the wish into the category of fond dreams. Or did it? I have wistfully mentioned wanting to ride – – – sometimes (as a gesture of defiance against the RA, most likely, I have threatened to “go find ahorse to ride”. Well, it’s going to happen!! For our 45th wedding
anniversary, my husband has made reservations for a two-hour trail ride in Bandera, Texas on July 22nd! This is incredibly sweet of him on so many
different levels. He has ridden horses before, but I seriously doubt that he misses a repeat of the experience. He knows he’s going to be sore as hell
afterwards. He also knows that this is probably the most foolish activity I could undertake and that every part of my body will be extract a fee afterwards (making me rather poorcompany for awhile) . . . but he knows how much I want to try! Oh wow!

Long Dresses & Tall Grass

Thursday, June 7th, 2012

With Stage 2 water restrictions in place and a humid high of 93 degrees predicted, I hauled my stiff and unwilling joints out the door at 7am, planning to water all three lawns, the sun & shade gardens, and the ever-expanding collection of potted flowers, foliage and herbs. (I have never met a gardening center I didn’t like – LOL!)  Stage 2 allows sprinkler use one day each week, beginning and ending in the pre-dawn hours; that might be doable with a in-ground sprinkler system, but we don’t have one. Hand-held (hose) watering is allowed at any hour, and I try to finish the task before the mercury climbs too high. This morning’s watering costume was a colorful floor-length (ergo grass-length) halter dress; totally unsuitable for a 64 year-old, but then I do not expect to wear it beyond the boundaries of my yard 😀

I gave the back lawn, sun garden, pots and shade/tropical bed (along with the hem of my dress!) a thorough soaking , and then took leave of whatever good sense I claim to have!  What I should have done is move to the front lawns. . . they were thirsty, too.  What I did do was put away the hose and grasp the pruning shears. We have a 40- 50 foot long wall of red-tipped photinias against our back fence; it provides shelter for white-wing & Inca doves, cardinals, blue jays, wrens, house sparrows, finches, pileated woodpeckers,  black-capped chickadees, titmice and starlings, momma squirrel and her two juvenile offspring  plus the odd grackle and mockingbird  –  a secure place to await their turn at the three feeders or birdbath or make up their minds to forage around the base of the feeders. However, the “bushes” are over two storeys high now, and many of the branches were extending well out beyond the feeders. into the yard.  As well fed as our adopted managerie is, they don’t need branch-bridges to reach the seed!  With pruning shears in hand, I set about trimming everything I could reach back to the boundary line.

The arbitrary boundary is the edging which our landscaper installed last year to separate the bushes & river rock from the lawn; apparently, there has been quite a lot of forward growth since Jesse and his team put that edging in place!  Crouching down repeatedly to tame the bottom branches quickly became a problem; my kneess and hips  announced that they would make me pay dearly if I did not stop immediately, and the water-line on my skirt climbed to knee level. The lower part of the dress was actually becoming quite heavy.  Bend down, prune branches, grab dress bodice, stand up – repeat for length of “hedge”.  Then I made a pass at everything from knee-level to eye-level. . . certainly less challenging (and painful), though I had to keep pulling my bodice up avoid ‘flashing’ the avian & rodent audience!  Tired, sore and with the temperature now in the high 8o’s, I went totally daft! “Everything from eye-level to full upward arm extension must be cut back.”  Do you have a picture of this idiocy in your mind?

This evening, I am confined to the sofa with a heating pad on my upper back and shoulders and an ice pack being shifted between right knee and left knee. It hurts when I try to reach my keyboard , even though it is sitting on my lap. However,  the bushes have been tamed (they look quite nice, actually) and the higher, out-of-reach branches form a very pleasing canopy. Will I try this again?  Not until I completely forget how much of me hurts right now!  Oh, the soggy & heavy dress coupled with over-the-head pruning?  Yes, the menagerie got flashed. . . . . several times!

Tomorrow. . . . the lawns need watering. Sigh!


The Subject is Shoes!

Tuesday, May 22nd, 2012


Finally - size 5 shoes which stay on my feet!


Yes, I know. . . after letting the Blackburn Digest languish for nearly nine months, I reappear with shoes as a subject?!  No, I haven’t lost any (more) of my marbles, and I promise to do an actual  catch-up post in the near future 😉  But today, I Found Shoes!

(Back Story) Being trapped in over-sized (8) &  heavy orthopedic shoes w/thick custom inserts for many years has put any somewhat attractive footwear rather high on my interest list, frankly.  Until my mid-thirties, my shoe size was 5 AA. – somewhat small for balancing  my 5′ 7 1/2″ height and very difficult to find at a reasonable price, but a lot of hunting and a sense of adventure  provided the needed items.  Because  Rheumatoid Arthritis caused severe dislocation of my toes , any pretty/stylish/sassy/sporty shoes have been off-limits for a couple of (a few?) decades – I’ve lost track. A few of those years were spent with braces attached to the shoes and velcroed just below my knees; they helped keep me upright, but did zero as a fashion statement!  I’m not vain, but dressing to the standards my job required (before I retired in 2005) was made very difficult by the no-choice footwear.

In 2008, I was blessed in finding an orthopedic surgeon who’s opinion matched the one I had held for several years; all ten toes needed to be amputated. I walked with far less pain during the early recovery period from that surgery than I had experienced daily for many years!  However, my dreams of ‘attractive shoes’ were dashed when the surgeon informed me I would still need my size 8 clod-hoppers with a toe-cap attached to the custom-made insert :(   I have been zipping around our house & yard (and a few over-long conventions) barefoot since then. . . . NOT surgeon approved behavior, but virtually pain free .something pretty.  I’ve found some slippers/moccasins which were amenable to remaining attached to my feet (as opposed to my walking right out of them) . . . apparently, the dislocated little monsters had been serving  some useful purpose after all!  Shoes to leave my house in were more elusive, until today :)

I had wine, cat treats and butter on my shopping list and decided to brave the brand new and incredibly  h-u-g-e HEB Plus supermarket which recently opened about 3 miles from Casa Blackburn.  (I think 180,000 sq. ft. was the space quoted in the grand opening announcement!)  Quite an adventure; sparkling clean (of course), lovely wide aisles, a full butcher’s shop and fresh fish market. . . . “specialty shops” (electronics, outdoor furniture, very large plant nursery, toddler-to-adult clothing section, etc.) around the side walls.  Altogether, a very dangerous place to visit; you could walk in looking for Salem bleu cheese and a quart of milk and return to your car with a flat-screen TV and a service for eight of china or enough sun/shade loving trees & plants to completely re- landscape your yard!  It’s a rather overwhelming,  upscale version of a Target or Walmart.

Locating the items on my short shopping list provided lots of walking exercise (and a lantana plant and a potted parsley found their way into my cart), but best of all, they had cute shoes in one of the Seasonal aisles!  Size 5 and laced far enough up the foot to keep them in place – Yay!!!  It’s so cool to look down at my feet and see just a bit of the shoe peeking out beyond the hem of my slacks instead of my usual view of bulky black “boats”.  Hmm – I may need to go back to the ‘mega-market’ tomorrow. . . . . they have this style in blue, too!

They Faxed What To You?!

Friday, April 1st, 2011


This could be a funny entry, but I think I have lost my sense of medical humor after many years of erroneously trusting doctors staff to use old-fashioned common sense, basic powers of deduction and/or simple reasoning skills. Yes, I know. Trust me, I know it’s a silly (and sometimes dangerous) assumption; I just continue to expect intelligent file handling and proper sharing of the correct information when my physician refers me to another specialist! To be fair, most of the staff get it right most of the time, but??????

At my last appointment with my RA doc (the follow-up appointment which had originally been scheduled for November 2010 and cancelled/rescheduled so often that it took place March 29, 2011!), the in-house lab did an extensive panel of blood tests. Several hours later, one of the nurses called to explain that some of the results were back – my ALP (Alkaline Phosphatase) was sky-high & Doctor W wanted me to see a Gastroenterologist soon. (Hmmm – same story about 12 months ago.)

I’ve put off contacting the Gastro’s office as I am still fighting a nasty bout of IBS. (Actually, I am betting that is why the lab work came back wonky.) Someone at Dr. W’s office sent my lab results and contact info to the Gastro; his nurse called me today to set up an appointment. A hint of puzzlement in her voice tipped me off – – – -something wasn’t adding up for her. Not sure why, but I asked “What is the date on the lab-work you are referencing?” “Uh, erm, it seems to be July of 2010!” No wonder she was confused!

I immediately called Dr. W’s office, went through the customary dance with the automated phone service and managed to snag a real, live person. (Pressing “0” sometimes over-rides the system and lets you contact a person instead of a “leave a message, we’ll get back to you” recording.) As briefly as possible, I explained that someone at their office had contacted Dr. G’s office and supplied them with July 2010 lab results instead of the relevant March 2011 lab results! I expected some embarrassment and an apology – what I received was a blithe explanation along the lines of “Oh yes, that happens often. The lab results do not reach a patients file for a couple of days ~ if our staff contacts another physician right after we’ve seen you here, the current results aren’t available to them yet.” OK. . . .so this seems to be common knowledge throughout the practice? With that in mind, it doesn’t occur to the staff to seek out up-to-date lab results before contacting another physician? Groan! Somebody, anybody, please tell me this sort of error doesn’t occur with predictable regularity with this clinic!!! (Except, obviously, it does!)

Physical therapy – that’s a surprise!

Wednesday, November 3rd, 2010

 Before my follow-up appointment with the hand surgeon (today), I fussed and whimpered and fussed some more; the “brave Christy” simply went into hiding, leaving a complete coward in her place!  

 My last encounter with stitch removal was two years ago, when the male nurse (aka Attila the Hun!) removed all of the surgical wraps on both feet (including the ones which had adhered to the incision) briskly, efficiently and painfully.  He then proceeded to SCRUB the incisions with great zeal and particularly rough-textured gauze! I have a witness – I think the marks of my fingernails are probably still dimly visible on Tom’s left hand!  The actual stitch removal was done by a very sweet, empathetic nurse, but she still had to dig for stitches within a rather deep V-shaped  area on both  feet and somewhat overgrown by new skin. . . . every time it hurt too much for me to stay silent and stoic, I felt guilty for making her feel guilty about hurting me!  All of this, of course, was on my mind while Tom helped a very reluctant me to get dressed for The Appointment before he left for work.

The mystical, “magical gauze strip with important healing qualities”  hadn’t been removed when my neighbor (aka Ace Nurse) or I did my own dressing changes, mostly because it was obviously well adhered to the surgical site by the rather important red fluid that flows through my body!  I was fussing because I had mental images of the surgeon (or nurse) calmly ripping the “magic strip” off.  In point of fact, it was the nurse who did the deed, and then proceeded to dig around and remove twelve stitches before leaving me to my surgeon’s tender mercy.  OK – I  survived that, the  incisions looked good and I was sent off to physical therapy to be fitted with a ‘figure-eight’ brace and given a sheet of exercises to be done five-times daily.   (According to the surgeon, “We had to remove a lot of extraneous bone.”) and released to return to the therapist’s clinic on Nov.10th. 

Excuse me? (1) The center of said figure  8 brace rests across all three incisions, with no padding between brace and skin! 2) I can perform the range-of-motion exercises much better without this infernal appliance constantly shifting and 3)  “OK, Chris. . . .give it time. Calm down, do the exercises, breathe deeply  & give it time. . . . well, I’m trying, but. . . .!

Good morning – rough evening!

Thursday, October 21st, 2010

Tom  and I had to report in at the surgical suite of The Hand Center of San Antonio at 6:00 this morning.  Ugh!  Granted, it didn’t give me a long time (thirsty and hungry) to wait or become nervous, but we were sure doing a lot of yawning!

Everything went like clock-work, and I’ve seldom met a warmer, friendlier group of clerks, nurses & technicians.  The in-take clerk (usually the worst of the “just-the-facts-ma’am, sign…here, and there, “go sit and wait to be called” crew) was warm, welcoming, and even shunted some of the lengthy paper-work towards Tom to be filled out once she noticed that the pen & I were engaged in a small battle of wills.  (I try to have a Christy – friendly pen with me at all times, but I didn’t even bother to take a purse with me; just my ID, insurance card and med list.)

Pre-Op was fairly empty when I was taken back to be prepped. All of the nurses were sweet and “un-rushed” (If it isn’t a real word, it ought to be) and I drew Christy (yep!) as my prep-nurse. Went through the standard litany of questions (designed to avoid errors, so I don’t mind them at all!), but Christy didn’t employ the usual Drill Sargent approach :)  Got “comfortable” in my surgical gown (yeah, riiiiiight) and another nurse came along to start the requisite IV; lucked out again, as she slid the needle in and taped everything down without a twinge!  I was handed a marker and initialed the area Dr. Rust would be working on – LOL!  Met my anesthesiologist, who was a tad surprised to hear that all he’d be using the IV line for (aside from the standard Ringer’s Lactate) was a light bit of sedation; Dr. Rust & I had agreed on local injections at the base of the 2nd and 3rd fingers.

One of the pluses of avoiding general anesthesia is that I went straight from the OR to Level 2 Recovery, where I spent a very short time being monitored for wonky blood pressure (it does it every time!) and a little longer sipping dark roast coffee and sitting in a recliner before Tom came in to take me home! I was settled on our bed by 9:30 am.

That’s a good thing, because my surgeon encountered more than she expected.  After she removed the cyst, she found a large rheumatoid bony growth that had to be cut away (remember my “things can hide in x-rays” note a couple of posts back? Bingo!) . Hence, I apparently have a V – shaped incision instead of the small, straight cut she’d planned to make. It also means that the pain level is several notches higher than I expected; when bone-cutting is involved, it definitely ramps up the Ouch Factor!

I won’t be making miniatures for a couple of weeks, but I’ll feel better in a couple of days :)

Run up to surgery # . . . whatever!

Wednesday, October 20th, 2010

Back on September 1st, I met with Dr. Stace’ Rust about the knot/lump/whatever which has been forming on my left hand ring finger, palm-side and just below the first knuckle.  It has been growing for several months……..not actually sure how long, as I have a bad habit of trying to ignore “little things”, even when they get in the way of normal mobility or make tasks harder. (It’s called Surviving RA!)  I finally quit ignoring this one when it occurred to me that I might not be able to remove my wedding ring or engagement band without having them cut off  by a jeweler!  Tom accomplished the removal with liquid dish soap, a great deal of pulling and some mashing of the knuckle; that was enough to convince me I needed to find a hand surgeon!  ( The wizard who performed three reconstructive surgeries on my right hand, the last one several years ago, has since switched to the more lucrative field of plastic surgery!! )

During my mid- August appointment with my rheumatologist, I asked him who his favorite hand surgeon was.  I was lucky on several counts; her practice is located close-by, she was accepting new patients, and I could get an appointment with her relatively quickly!  At the first visit (Sept. 1st) , she had several x-rays taken to rule out a bone chip or other solid mass. Nothing there, except a rather crooked finger. (Take note . . . .things can hide from an x-ray!)  Examining the finger, she posited three possibilities; rheumatoid nodule, benign tumor or cyst.  We could confirm or rule out door number three by having her attempt to use the typical, rather large needle & syringe to drain it.  Yes, I let her – yes, it is a fairly uncomfortable procedure – yes, it was a cyst.  Caveat: it could still return, at which point we would need to discuss surgery.

September 2nd, when I removed the band aid, the cyst had refilled and enlarged a bit!  Rats!   Back to Dr. R’s ~ time to get me on the surgical schedule. I saw her on Sept. 13th and my calendar turned out to be much more of a problem then hers!  Sept. 17th-19th was the Society of American Miniaturists (SAM’s) Wonderful  Workshop Weekend. I was signed up for two workshops, haven’t been to a real Miniatures Show in over a year, this was the firs Workshop Weekend at the new Temple, Texas venue  and I  Was Going!  Sept.21st & 22nd were appointments I had already booked with medical appointments and  Sept. 24th was our last round-trip to Houston & Baylor University for follow-up on Tom’s injured left eye (we’re rotating him back to the excellent medical team here in San Antonio, and I was not going to make that drive in surgical bandages)!  Finally settled on October 21st, which sent me into an energy-draining quest to complete everything on my “You need two hands” list before the chosen date. I almost finished everything on the list, too!