July 14, 2012

I Really Thought It was the Asthma

Posted in Health, life at 10:56 am by otherdeb

Okay, many of you know that I’ve been feeling kind of run-down lately (not to mention feeling kind of run-over).  I really did think it was a combination of the weight gain and the asthma but – and you know it kills me to say it – I was wrong, and pretty horribly so.

I’ve been faithfully going to the asthma study appointments, and taking the meds, but my asthma has not been getting better.  I knew that was a possibility, but at least the study was keeping me in asthma meds, so I was not complaining.

Then, back in mid-April, I woke up one morning with a coughing/choking fit.  My roommate, not knowing what to do, did nothing; trying to yell for her while choking, I could feel a vocal cord go “boing;” so now I had a strained vocal cord to add to the mix.  That was finally starting to heal when I got the news about Lisa Rogers passing.  I knew there was no way I could make all the necessary phone calls, so I made a few strategic ones, asking people to pass the news on, but I managed to restrain the vocal cord nonetheless.  I now speak – as Dave Weingart pointed out – about four octaves higher than normal.  Additionally, a badly strained vocal cord obstructs one’s breathing; just what I needed.

Nevertheless, I was still carrying on – sort of.  I was finding going out less and less attractive, unless I had someone to drive me, because it was just too damned hard to do public transit.  And forget about walking; I needed to take my cane along for anything more than about half a block – not because I couldn’t put one foot in front of the other, but because I would need to stop and rest when I ran out of breath.

Now, if I still had health insurance, I could have gone to my doctor – he’s only 3½ blocks from my house, but when I retired, I lost my insurance coverage.

On June 21st, I woke up with my teeth chattering, and feeling unwell.  Figuring I was getting the flu again, I went back to bed.  Over the next 24 hours, I became less and less functional.  I didn’t even look at my cell phone, or I would have seen that my sister had called on the 20th, and the 21st.  When, on the 23rd, I still hadn’t answered her calls, she came to the house, took one look at me, and told me I was going to the hospital, and I had a choice between Coney Island Hospital and North Shore University Hospital.  When I realized that I was actually too sick to tell her to “Fuck off and die,” I agreed to go, but asked her to call Marc Glasser.  Being sure I was going to argue with her, she went on a few minutes before she realized that I had agreed.  She then called Marc, and he came over.  It took both of them to help me get out of bed, although I was able, with my trusty cane, to walk to Marc’s van.  They took me to North Shore – a much better hospital than Coney Island will ever be.  When I was admitted, my blood pressure was 96/52 – great if you are a marathon runner; pretty horrendous if you are an over-50, obese woman with hypertension. They also told me I was dehydrated, which I was sort of surprised at because I was drinking 20 oz. containers of 1/3rd juice mixed with 2/3rds water constantly over the previous few days. It was so bad, in fact, that on Monday the doctor told me that if I had asked my sister for a night to think it over, the question would not have been “which hospital?” but “Burial or cremation?”  We got there around 9 pm on Friday night, and it was eventually decided to admit me.  Marc and Paula left around 4 am, and I was in a room by 7 am – pretty good as far as getting admitted from an ER when you have no insurance goes.  The diagnosis was cellulitis that had gone both septic and systemic.

On Saturday, the Medicaid rep, a nice lady named Michelle, came around, and we worked out what I would need.  My sister came by, and took the papers – telling me she would get it all handled.  (She didn’t, but that’s probably a blessing, although it ended up holding things up for a bit.)  She also insisted that I have them look at my throat, because she was absolutely positive that what I knew damned well was a strained vocal cord was actually a cancerous polyp.  (It wasn’t, but that comes later.)  I was put on IV antibiotics (Vankomycin – 1 bag a day from Saturday through Tuesday), as well as oral antibiotics (Cipro – also from Saturday through Tuesday), and told that once they felt I could do only oral antibiotics they would release me.  Paula and Marc both visited me on Sunday, and I had a very welcome surprise – a call from Nancy Thalblum, offering to put a note on Facebook for me.  (My roommate supposedly put notes on #filkhaven, and Plurk, but, somehow, those notes never showed up.)  On Monday, they still had not looked at my throat, and I realized that they were not going to do so until the Medicaid paperwork was at least started.  Since my sister was holding things up (mostly because I refused to tell the lies she wanted me to), I called Marc.  He graciously agreed to come and do some running around for me on Tuesday, so that the paperwork could get moving, including taking my roommate to have a letter notarized, and dropping paperwork off at Michelle’s office.

While he was doing the running around, they finally came and did an endoscopy of my throat, and decided that they needed to do a CAT scan of my throat and chest, and that they were going to release me that evening after they were done.  Marc couldn’t stay that long – for some reason, the traffic both to and from Nassau County has been horrendous lately.  However, a friend (Joanne the Librarian) was planning to visit me that evening, arriving just about when the hospital was planning to cut me loose.  I called her, and she agreed to drive me home.  So, I was told that there wasn’t much movement of one vocal cord, and I underwent the CAT scan, came back to my room, ate dinner, and waited for Joanne.  While I was waiting, my sister called, and when I pointed out what the endoscopy showed, she admitted (possibly for the first time in her life) that she was wrong and I was right, and that – while she really, really, really hated being wrong in general – in this case she was glad.  When Joanne came, they discharged me, giving me prescriptions for different blood pressure meds than I normally take, and a bottle of doxycycline to take for the next seven days.  I didn’t argue with them, although I know damned well that one course of antibiotics does nothing as far as my body is concerned.

Joanne drove me home, where I found that not only had my sister rearranged half my room, but the two things I had asked the roommate to do were not done.  Since one of those things was to make my bed, because my sister had put the sheets in the laundry while I was in the hospital, I was less than amused. (Her excuse for not doing that was that she was hoping Joanne would do it).  The other request was that, since floor was now visible, would she now vacuum it?  (Her excuse for not doing that was that there were electrical cords on the floor.)  I made the bed (Joanne had a two hour drive to get home, and work the next day), and went to sleep.  I vacuumed the floor the next day.

I did take all the antibiotics, and then another three days’ worth I had in the house.  They worked somewhat, but there was still some infection left, and the back of my left leg was now a hot mess, because the infection’s way of fighting back was to turn the back of my left leg into blisters, which would break when touching any surface, including the bed.  I had showed this to the doctors in the hospital, but they said that nothing could be done, since it was clearly the infection fighting back, and would heal eventually.

I still had some swelling of the ankle (although more my usual swelling from the hypertension than anything else), but the leg was no longer bright red.  On Tuesday July 10th, Naomi Moslow drove me out to the first of the follow-up appointments the hospital had set up.  This one was at North Shore’s Medicine Clinic, on Northern Boulevard.  They took a complete medical history, looked at my leg, and prescribed another round of Doxycycline.  They did not put me back on my normal hypertension meds, but on a greatly reduced regime of a different blood pressure medication and a much lower amount of the beta blocker I was originally on, and think that a lot of things I’ve been dealing with for the last few years may have been misdiagnosed.  They also gave me a prescription for mometasome ointment to put on the leg, and that has reduced the mess by about ¾ since the 10th (I’m writing this on the 14th).  They also want me to set up an echocardiogram appointment, to check out a heart murmur I have had since roughly 2000, and while it will be a pain to get to, I agree with erring on the side of caution.

My next follow-up is Wednesday, the 18th, with the doctor who did the endoscopy.  The doctor at the Medicine Clinic told me that I have a paralyzed left vocal cord.  The doctor who did the endoscopy will discuss with me what should/can be done about it.

The good news is that I was able to go to ConCertino, the Massachusetts incarnation of the Floating Northeast Filk Convention.  It’s the one convention a year I almost never miss, and I was really glad to make this one, as it meant I got to see friends from out of town (both Chicagoland and Great Britain) that I otherwise would not be able to see for a very long time.  I also got to see friends from the Boston area, and got to meet a very lovely young fan named Batshua, who I hope to stay in touch with.  She had asked on LiveJournal about a room share, and I offered, hoping to cut the cost of the room to where I could actually reimburse the friend putting the room on his credit card while at the con (I could and did).  Another thing that worked out was that Harold Stein was able to fix my computer while I was up there, so I am now working on transferring files from the computer Sue loaned me to mine.  Then I can give her back her computer, and we can return the computer Marc Glasser loaned me to him.  Also, thanks to Spencer, I was able to get my iPhone to a guy he knows who might be able to fix it.  We had a spot of trouble over the provenance and date of manufacture of the unit, but that seems to have been sorted out.  I will theoretically find out next week whether it can be fixed or not.

Meanwhile, I have had a good deal more energy than I’ve had for a long time, although I’m nowhere near up to what I had before all this stuff happened.  On the other hand, when I had to testify, on July 3rd,  in a case I was involved in as a witness, I was able to get into Manhattan, over to the State Supreme Court, testify, and get home – on one of the hottest days of the year!

This was the case where I was on an Express bus, an old woman on a walker, who several passengers had seen approach the bus and had agreed should not be on the street without a companion, as well as her walker, insisted on being let on the bus, and before the driver could raise the lift, fell over backward. (The funny thing is that both witnesses [myself and another passenger] were on the driver’s side – we watched him ask her several times if she was sure she wanted the express bus, and we both watched and heard him operate the lift, and we knew he had done nothing wrong).  The night before the case, each side’s attorney called me.  The MTA’s attorney just wanted to know what time I was coming in.  The old woman’s attorney called what I had to say speculation, and asked me to consider another scenario; when I asked him why his speculation was better than mine, he accused me of having a vendetta against the old woman.  I told him that I did not have a vendetta against her, but I replied that I was on the scene and he was not.  The case was settled in the MTA’s favor – probably the only time in my life I will ever support the MTA over a consumer, but right is right, and I was not gonna lie.

Sadly, I had to pass up going to the NYUSFS Ferry Meeting on July 5th, because it was a horridly hot day, and I knew that I would not have enough spoons to go in by public transit, walk from the express bus to the Ferry, then travel to wherever the group decided to go for dinner, then get back home.  So, rather than hold everyone up, I decided it was the better part of valor to stay home and send my regards to everyone.  Marc did tell me that the meeting was fairly well attended, so that made me happy for the group.

The other good news is that I have begun to pick up doing some transcription work again.  While it doesn’t pay a heck of a lot, it’s money coming in – something we can use around here, since my pension doesn’t cover a heck of a lot.

Anyway, that’s about it for now.  Hopefully, everyone and everything around me will continue well for a good long while.


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