Tag Archives: health issues

Waiting for Surgery

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Surgery is such a common occurrence these days that it is possible you or someone you know will have surgery in the near future.  As I find myself in that category, I thought I’d offer some useful tips for both the patient and friends and family.

To the patient first – 

  •  My best advice is to arm yourself with as much knowledge as possible regarding the type of surgery you will undergo.  The more you know, the less you will worry.  The fear of the unknown is a terrible thing.
  • Discuss any questions or concerns with your doctor.
  • Prepare your household (stock up on groceries, make sure things are taken care of in advance that usually rely on your efforts.)
  • Pay all bills and make sure spouse knows where important papers are.
  • Pamper yourself a little.
  • Pray and leave the surgery in God’s hands.
  • Relax.  Before you know it, the surgery will be history and you’ll be on the road to recovery!

To friends & family –

  • Ask your friend or family member how you can best offer assistance.
  • Plan to prepare a simple meal to drop off after surgery. (Don’t linger.  They need rest and are likely in pain.)
  • Offer to do light grocery shopping.
  • Write a thoughtful get well card.  (Everyone loves to be thought of, especially when they’re not feeling up to par.)
  • Give a little thinking of you gift. (lip balm, lotion, word search puzzle book, etc.)
  • Pray for their healing, comfort and peace during this time.

 

I hope this was helpful.  If you’d like to add any tips, please leave a comment.

Here’s wishing all of us a healthy year!

 

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1st of 3 Dr. appts. this week…

“Well, there’s good news and there’s bad news.”  That’s what the ER Dr. said last week as she reviewed my CT scan results.  And that’s summation of my G.I. doctor’s appointment today.

Do you want the good news first?  … I thought you might.  Well, the pain I’ve been experiencing has nothing at all to do with the diverticulosis or fatty liver that I have.  A proper diet of high fiber, lots of fruits and veggies should help both conditions.  She really didn’t seemed phased by either of those diagnoses.  I was deeply relieved on many counts, namely that I’m holding tightly onto the years I have left before turning half a century, thus receiving this magical card for an honorary colonoscopy.  No thanks.  Delay.  Delay, please.

The bad news is … The pain I’m having may be due to my gall bladder.  Sigh.

So, she’s sending me for a Hida (Hepatobilary) Scan to test the functionality of my gall bladder.  They inject a dye via i.v. and you lay on the table for an hour while a camera takes pictures.  Oh joy.  Do I sound excited?  I thought my excitement might shine through.  😉

I am glad to undergo further testing and hopefully get to the bottom of my pain; however, I do not relish the thought of laying on a table for an hour.  She’s also sending me for more lab work.

All in all, I thought it was a very thorough visit and plan on resting until my next appointment.

Earlier I Googled gall bladder symptoms, etc. and came across this hilariously insulting but possibly true statement by Jordan Knowlton on Livescience.com:

“Those prone to gallbladder disease usually fall into the five F’s:

Fair, Fat, 40, Female & Flatulent.”

Nice.

I’ve just been summed up in one sentence.  😉

 

 

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Being a Healthcare Advocate

An advocate is one who stands in place for another, who fights for another.

I am Sarah’s greatest health advocate.  Sarah is my 18 year old daughter who was recently diagnosed with POTS.  (I wrote a lengthy post on this that you can check out if you’d like.)

I suppose being a mother predisposes one to being an advocate.  After all, no one wants what’s best for their child more than their mother.  I have become a “Mama Grisly Bear” when it comes to my daughter.  My further training in this regard came in recent years, caring for my aging father.  He particularly has needed an advocate during doctor visits and his hospitalization several years ago when he survived sepsis.  I told him then that I would always be his best advocate and I meant it.  I still am.

In recent months my role as “Health advocate” has expanded to include my teenage daughter, Sarah, who has seen more specialists than one can imagine over the last year.

Last October I became convinced that my daughter’s symptoms matched those of patients with Lyme disease.  In fact, I was pretty sure she had it.  Of course, I have no formal medical training (unless you count being a nurse’s daughter).  🙂  I read articles online and really researched this.  I spoke with friends about it and they, too, were fairly convinced.

So, when we met with Sarah’s new primary care doctor, we strongly requested her being tested for Lyme.  And not just any old test.  We had read that the Western Blot test was the most accurate and that was what we wanted.

Not only did her PC order the Western Blot test, but also ordered another Leukemia round of blood tests as well as any markers in her blood indicating other diseases.  We were glad she was so proactive in ordering these tests but were sent on another emotional roller coaster while we awaited the results once more.  Thankfully, all results were negative!

Because Sarah has seen so many specialists, we always type up a “Medical History” information sheet, which is typically several pages long and includes all recent MRI’s and CAT scans and other diagnostic testing.  I also photocopy all recent lab work results so they know instantly what she’s already been tested for at a glance.

I’m sure some smile at this and perhaps think my efforts are “over the top”, but most thank me wholeheartedly for doing this.  It eliminates many questions and saves their time so they can concentrate on the bigger picture.  It also means we do not have to answer the same questions over and over again, specialist to specialist visit.

Part of being a patient advocate is steering the treatment in the direction you are most comfortable.  Example: Our family tries to eat very healthy and veers toward a more holistic path when possible.  We’re not opposed to medications, but only when necessary and if a supplement couldn’t work just as well.  I am reminded of this because several doctors have suggested birth control for Sarah as a treatment for a couple different issues (that have nothing to do with birth control itself actually).  Sarah has done some research into this drug and is adamantly opposed to using it.  I have to say that I am not a fan either and wouldn’t want that necessarily for her.  My mother died at age 53 of breast cancer and studies have shown increased estrogen levels lead to breast cancer.

Each time we have politely declined using it, both doctors were certainly understanding, which we appreciated.  (I had a doctor years ago discharge me as his patient because I refused to go on a steroid because we were trying to conceive at the time.  So some doctors believe it is their way or the highway, apparently.)

Side note:  Sarah wanted to be a midwife for a while and during that time, educated herself greatly in every aspect.  She even was able to attend a home birth, which was a memorable experience for her.

So, you might say I am a Captain of the Healthcare Sea on my daughter’s behalf, in a way.  Obviously, my daughter’s care is ultimately up to her doctors, but if I believe a leaf needs turned over, I will advocate for it.  Steering is definitely a part of being a good advocate.  So is educating yourself on the symptoms and known diagnosis.  Don’t be afraid to speak up.  In this case, it’s my daughter’s body that we are dealing with.  She may be a stranger to the specialist, but to me, she is a huge part of my world!  And my heart.

At the end of the day, I must know within myself that I’ve exhausted every avenue in an attempt to restore my daughter’s health.  I feel like I’m fighting a battle for her wellness and recovery.   One on one time with each doctor is very limited, so having medical history documented and any questions written down is vital for a successful visit.  It also eliminates “brain fog” during the visit.  It’s an amazing thing that happens when you’re finally face to face with the doctor, often after months of waiting to get in, and then all pertinent questions fly out the window.  Another thing that happens is, whatever the doctor says during the visit winds up becoming a “brain blur” afterward.  I recommend writing notes, asking questions and later documenting the visit for clarity.

I am present during every doctor visit my daughter has, even now that she has turned 18.  She’ll say that sometimes I answer the doctor’s questions and that she wished I would allow her time to do that.  So, I’ve scaled back and attempted to allow her to do most of the talking when possible.  Often what happens is that she experiences POTS “brain fog” and goes on bunny trails in response to the doctor’s questions, which can be confusing and time consuming.  And each visit is so key to Sarah’s recovery that I feel like much is at stake and we must make the most of our time.  So, I speak up when I think it’s useful to the doctor’s understanding of her symptoms.  Sarah thanks me.  Most of the time.  😉

Follow up is another major component of advocacy.  It has been amazing to me the degree that I have had to involve myself and relentless messages to doctor’s offices in order to obtain lab or other diagnostic testing results.  It matters to no one more than you and your family.  Why wouldn’t you follow up?  If the doctor says the lab results should be ready in three days.  Guess who’s calling in three days?  Me!  The sooner we have the results, the sooner treatment and recovery can begin.

Have you ever had to be a staunch advocate for a loved one who is ill?  If so, can you offer any sage words of advice?

 

{Medical Disclaimer:  I am not a doctor.  I don’t even play one on t.v.  I am a mom.  A very loving and dedicated one at that.  The information contained in this blog and any other article on my page are based on our experiences, what we’ve read and our opinions or understanding of POTS.  Please consult a licensed physician for advice and conduct extensive research on your own.}

 

 

 

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Flashbacks of Caring for my Grandmother

My maternal grandmother was born before the turn of the century on a hundred acre farm.  She was the oldest with six boys following her, and, finally, another baby girl.  She loved to recall this: “I’m not bragging, but I did as hard work as those boys did.  I put my arms around many a barrels of potatoes and we’d roll them up onto the truck.”  🙂  She was a sweetheart.

She came to live with us a few years after my grandfather died.  I don’t have very many memories of her when she was still mobile, however from age 11 until I was 23, I would assist in caring for her as an invalid.  She had hip replacement surgery in 1981 and never regained strength enough to walk.  We did everything for her.  Our mom was a registered nurse by trade, and my younger sister and I were her little assistants, who really did too much at such an early age.

She read her Bible every day and I am convinced she thrived as long as she did because she drew strength from the Scriptures.  For many years, she enjoyed exchanging letters with her sister until she got to where she repeated herself many times over and couldn’t formulate a comprehensive letter.  As time wore on, her dementia worsened.  She didn’t recognize our mother, her daughter.  She would say, “I know you’re someone in the family, but I can’t place who you are.”  I know that deeply saddened our mother.  Usually, she knew who my sister and I were because we were always close by.  We would fix her hair and even polished her nails on occasion.  We loved her dearly.

We were never told, “Listen, we need to love grandmother and respect and care for her, okay, girls?”  We were shown by mere example.  We had such a loving and nurturing mother who displayed day in and day out what love looks like.  She showed us how to care for our grandmother and the value of family.  She demonstrated the deep love and regard she held for her mother by her care and compassion.  We could do no less.

My grandmother would tell us she saw a horse on the rooftop of the house across the street or a little boy playing the piano at her bedside.  How she got these visions in her head, I will never know.  The aging mind can be a scary place.  I can recall her reading little preschool books to my oldest and at some point, he drifted into another room mid-story.  She’d continue reading the story and enjoying looking at the bright pictures until the book was completed, just as a preschooler might.  That saddened me.  Although it illustrates how in many respects the elderly become as babies once again.  I wish I knew why.

(It’s so important for the mind to remain engaged in life.  Once mobility challenges arrive, it seems the mind is susceptible to rapid decay.)

Despite all the countless hours and days spent caring for my grandmother during those years, she will forever hold a special place in my heart.  She was tough, tenacious, but, most of all, she was a godly woman after God’s own heart.  She grew up in the Methodist church and attended the same little, country church her entire life until she moved in with us.  Her ancestor’s names are inscribed on a few stained glass windows.  It was where she worshipped with her parents and seven siblings as a young child, and, in due course, with her late husband and children.  It was a special place to her.  And, now, it is where we laid her earthly body to rest twenty-one years ago.  She was ninety-eight.

My grandmother saw a lot of changes in her lifetime, for sure.  She was fond of saying, “Times bring changes, honey.”  Haha.  The house my mother grew up in had no indoor plumbing until she was sixteen.  There was no central A/C or heating.  They had fireplaces and, I suppose, kerosene heaters.  My grandmother saw the advent of the automobile and aircraft, vast advances in modern medicine; not to mention, the computer revolution.  I am only two generations removed from the cusp of innovation my grandmother witnessed during her lifetime.  Pretty interesting to ponder.

Change.  They say, “The only constant in life is change.”  The irony of it all.  Yes, change is all around us.  Now, my role as daughter is often “Caregiver” or “Advisor” to my father, who is fond of calling me his business manager or letting everyone know that I hold all of his medical records.  🙂  Yes, times do bring changes, honey.

 

 

 

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Life is Precious

As I’ve spent nearly a week at my father’s bedside in the hospital, I have been struck by the fragility of life.  As my dad lay fighting sepsis, a few doors down a 74 year old woman died of the same infection while we were there.  My dad is 77 and has a ways to go as he recovers, but, prayerfully, he will recover from all of this.  Tomorrow a home health nurse will come out and perhaps the following day, the physical therapist will visit to help him regain greater mobility with his fractured right foot.  Now that the infection is under control, his strength is slowly returning and he’s able to navigate reasonably well with the walker.  He still makes me nervous when he has to get up, but hopefully each day we’ll see improvement.

It’s steadily snowing this morning as I sit here typing this post while my father is dozing on the sofa.  The medicine makes him very sleepy, plus, he really needs rest anyway.  Sometimes it’s the best medicine.

This morning I put in a call to the urologist and am expecting a return call this afternoon (once he reviews his hospital records) regarding scheduling follow up tests and an appointment.  I also called the orthopedic doctor to postpone his follow up visit by two weeks, so that will buy us some time before he has to be out and about.  I’m hopeful his mobility will be much better by April 16th.  Initially, the Dr. thought 6-8 weeks healing time for his fractured foot, so we’ll see.  Right now, that’s the least of his physical worries.  We have bigger issues.

He’s on a blood thinner and was due to have lab work this week, however, upon mentioning it to the hospital discharge Dr., he put in an order for a home health nurse to come out to do the lab work.  What a relief!  That’s one less appointment we have to go out for.

And, at some point soon, we will need to follow up with his primary care physician.  The good news is … my dad is in good spirits and is thrilled to be out of the hospital.  Although he’s not in his own home, he is very content being a house guest at our humble abode.  He was happy to watch old baseball games on t.v. last night and is anxiously awaiting Opening Day for baseball on Monday!  He adores his favorite baseball team!

In the midst of all the hubbub with my dad, we’ve all been waiting for a friend to have her baby.  My daughter has aspirations of becoming a midwife and had the opportunity to witness a home birth.  We took her to our friend’s house the other day, but it was not to be the “birthday”, lots of contractions, but then they stopped.  My husband dropped her off again yesterday around 7a.m. and she wound up staying the night as she was about 5 centimeters as of late last night.  Thankfully and blessedly, she gave birth to a healthy baby girl a little after 7a.m.!  Baby #6 for our friend’s family!  Life is precious.  Life is sweet.  My daughter is naturally exhausted from the last few days, but she still wants to be a midwife.  🙂  I’m sure it was an event she won’t ever forget.  When I picked her up from our friend’s house this morning, I would have liked to have seen her precious bundle from heaven, but I am fighting a bad cold so I did not go inside the house.

Yes, life is precious.  Enjoy each and every day.  Take nothing for granted.  Celebrate all the little moments, for in the end, they add up to a lifetime of blessings!

 

 

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