Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Why They Call It Practicing Medicine Instead of Doing Medicine

Sometimes the internet is a scary place to be. I got the radiologist's report on the x-rays and ultrasounds I had done last week. At first I thought "AWESOME! My knee is taking me on vacation to Mexico!" Cuz, you know, what else do you think of when you see the word 'baja?' Mexico, right? Sun, surf, tequila! But not when it's preceded by the word patella. Who knew baja was a medical term? And a not so good one at that. And that's where the internet comes in. You know how as soon as you start getting some weird symptom and you go on the internet to self-diagnose? Yes, you do. You KNOW you do it! And whatever you think you have, the cure is ALWAYS worse than the 'disease.' Well, I haven't been to see the specialist yet. I see him on Thursday. The one who specializes in "complex knee reconstruction." But if everything, and I mean EVERYTHING, I've seen on the internet is true, then I can only believe that what the 'regular' orthopedic surgeon told me the other day is true. More surgery. That's the bad news. The good news is, Finally, an answer to the excruciating pain I've been having!

My previous surgeon kept telling me to "give it time. It could take a year or more for it to heal." A year later, "just give it some more time and keep working at it." Yeah, easy for HIM to say.

 Nearly two years now, and it's been getting worse, not better. To the point even I can't take it any more. And I think I've proven over the years that I can take boatloads of pain. So I finally went to see a different surgeon.  My old surgeon and the physical therapists kept telling me my quadriceps had healed and was working fine. "It's 'firing' when you flex it, so it's healed." I just needed to rehab more. (The surgeon had needed to cut through the quad to replace the knee joint [for the third time, after two infections].) All I knew was that I'd been working on it every day and still it hurt like hell. Even worse, sometimes. And I figured I had given it enough time to heal, and rehab was NOT getting me anywhere. No matter how hard I tried, I could not straighten my leg. I had NO extension ability. You know that exercise where you're sitting with your legs bent and you lift them up straight? Yeah, I can't do that with my left leg. According to the doctor who did the surgeries, it should have been happening. After each visit I'd leave even more dejected and depressed. And frustrated. Actually, frustrated doesn't even begin to cover it. Plus, sometimes I could barely walk.

The pain management doctor didn't want me taking pain meds. He thought I should go through the Chronic Pain Rehab Program again. I quit going to the psychologist because each week was just a repeat of the week before, and she agreed I should try Pain Rehab again. Personally, not only could I not see the point in it since I knew it doesn't get rid of the pain, just teaches you how to deal better while you lived with it, I knew how painful the program itself would be, the way the treatment areas were set up and all the walking and constant sitting involved. So that was not an option worth considering, as far as I was concerned. Thus when I went in for my physical last week and the doctor asked why I was in such a funk, and I told her, she gave me a referral to a different surgeon, and her scheduler was able to get me an appointment that week! After looking at my X-rays he ordered an ultrasound, which they were able to do same day. And that's how I got an answer to my prayers. Not the answer I'd hoped for, really. Not the optimal answer. But one I could live with, if it meant ending the pain and allowing me to walk around again like a real person! And one that didn't make me feel like a failure or that it was my own lack of effort that was causing the problem! I'm NOT a whiner! Or a weenie! There really IS a reason why my thigh was (is) killing me!  Apparently your quadriceps and patella tendons need to be intact in order for the leg to work right, and without what feels like a knife attack with every step. Or at least what I imagine a knife attack would feel like, never having actually been stabbed before.  But since stabbing is one of the descriptors they use on the pain chart, yeah, that's what it feels like. And speaking of those pain charts, sometimes a ten does n't cut it ( no pun intended.) And the chart with the faces? They need a face that looks like the shower scene in Psycho. That would perfectly describe the stabbing pain. Eeeee! Eeeee! Eeeee!

So, hey, back to the doctor's office. That lack of range of motion? NOT my fault! It's NOT a lack of effort! It is, literally, physically impossible for me to do leg extensions! Or to walk without pain! All this time I've been walking around on torn muscles. One of which is supposed to be one of the strongest muscles in your body. And not only that, apparently the knee replacement joint, the rod part that fits inside the femur, has loosened. Which adds to the pain. So, yeah. That's why I've missed so much and why I've been kinda cranky sometimes.
The surgeon I saw the other day has recommended that I go see the specialist surgeon. And once again, by having his office make the appointment, I was able to get in to be seen within a week. I LOVE the Cleveland Clinic! Well, as much as one can love a health care system. And okay, It may sound weird for somebody to be looking forward to surgery. But if surgery is what it takes to fix this, and according to what the surgeon told me and everything I've read about it, it's the ONLY way to fix it, bring it on! I'm just sorry I waited this long to switch surgeons. If I could do it without falling over, I'd be kicking myself! I could have saved myself a lot of aggravation and pain. And I could have been out living my life and enjoying myself instead of having daily pity parties. 
Unfortunately, my timing sucks, if my research is right. Of course I won't know for sure until everything is fixed, and I'll have a better idea after seeing the specialist, but it looks like surgical repair and 4-6 weeks of immobilization followed by 6-8 weeks of partial weight bearing, which means crutches. So figure a minimum of eight weeks on crutches. That pretty much rules out traveling to Maine in early November. Which means missing ANOTHER family get-together. Well, half the family, anyway, since it's women's weekend. But I was really, REALLY looking forward to the weekend, which is always a blast! So, once again I have to console myself with "There's always next year!" I think I can live with that.
UPDATE: Went to see the newest surgeon. So the spaces around the knee replacement implant (hardware) are too large for repair; there's not enough bone left. And those spaces are filled with infection. This specialist feels the problem is outside the scope of what he normally deals with and so has referred me to his partner, who is even more specialized. Still trying to get that appointment but have a follow-up this week to discuss plans for course of antibiotics after surgeon consults with infectious disease specialist. Here we go again!

Friday, September 06, 2013

What's In a Name? A Footballer's Name?

Cleveland has a large Slavik community, so there are a lot of people out here with names that some of us find hard to pronounce and even harder to spell (and this from a lifelong fan of a guy named Yastrzemski!). And there are Ohioans with names that are easy to say, easy to spell, but still cause a giggle. Have you seen the commercials that say "With a name like Smucker's, it HAS to be good!"? Yup, The Smuckers are Ohioans. From Orrville. Not to be confused with that other Orville. Redenbacher, that is. I don't know if he's from Ohio but he makes pretty decent popcorn. And HE is not to be confused with Dayton's Orville, Wilbur's brother. Not Mr. Ed's Wilbur. The flying Wilbur. As in Orville and Wilbur Wright. The Wright Bros. But those names really aren't "in favor" anymore. And neither is Norval, which kinda rhymes with Orville but isn't spelled anything like it. But that's the name of one of the Browns' assistant coaches. He's been around the NFL a time or two, and most of us know him as Norv. Norv Turner, football coach. He's an assistant to a guy whose name may or may not be Slavik but is, at least, likely Eastern European. So Head Coach Rod Chudzinski should fit right in around these parts. Though I'm not sure how well that name fit when he was a kid. Kids can be cruel about things like that, things you can't control. Like your name. Chudzinski. Is it worse than Dick Butkus? Well, I suppose given his size not too many kids made fun of Dick Butkus. At least not within his hearing range. But the 2013 Cleveland Browns have added a challenge. They have a rookie player who hails from Louisiana. And even THAT cannot explain his name. This kid has a pretty good reputation as a tough ballplayer. He's won a lot of awards. AND he was drafted in the first round. But it's likely a lot of people will hear more about him because of his name than his play. It's not a modern name that harkens back to guys named Knute. It's not a name which can conveniently be changed to rhyme with a trophy, like Theisman. It's not even a football-great-sounding name like the Patriots players Gronkowski, Gostkowski, or Ninkovich. Even Hoomanawanui doesn't faze people, given the number of guys of American Samoan heritage who have played in the NFL recently. Polamalu, anyone? But back to the Browns. Ironically, the Cleveland faithful are sometimes called The Dawgs, as in The Dawg Pound, the fan seating area in the endzone. And why is that ironic? Because the new kid's name is...wait for it....

 No. No typo here, folks. Not even as I type this on the typo-infamous iPad. Barkevious. I kid you not. It's right there on the Interwebs. It's on the Browns' game program, right next to the number 51. It's on the marketing materials, his contract.  Above the 51 on his jersey is the name Mingo. That's his last name. Fortunately for the play-play guys and the color commentators. Because, I know it's childish, and I don't mean to be cruel, but he ain't nuthin' but a hound dawg. A Cleveland Pound Dawg. Barkevious. AKA Ke-Ke. Or whatever he wants to be called. Because he's a big, strong ball player, out to make a name for himself. Though who could forgive him if he changed it to something a little less, shall we say, unusual? He could always change it to Cinco Uno.

The Fine Art of Digression (or How One Can Turn Any Conversation Into an Anti-Yankees Dig)

Almost had to use the comforter last night but put on flannel jammies instead. I guess fall is upon us. That in-between time when you don't know what to wear. Which is why God and our friendly purveyor Leon Leonwood invented layers. You are a true Yankee if you know who Leon Leonwood was. An even truer Yankee if you hate THE Yankees! Who probably won't even be in the playoffs this year. Too bad. So sad. Screw 'em. But we should savor these last coupla weekends of the regular season because it's the last time we'll have to hit against Mariano and possibly Pettite. And who knows if Jeter will be celebrating his 40th next summer in pinstripes? And (please god make it happen) the last time Alex Rodriguez will find himself anywhere near a ballfield again, unless he buys a ticket. But there I go, digressing again. Anyway, I hope everybody else is experiencing the same beautiful but too chilly for shorts but actually good for sleeping at least in your jammies weather that we are here in Cleveland. Where I don't even have to look at the standings to know the Indians won't make the playoffs. Which is sad because I was hoping, with Terry Francona managing... Oh, well. At least the Browns haven't lost yet. But give 'em a chance. There's always the first game this weekend.

BTW, Leon Leonwood was that, I'm assuming friendly-as-a-guy-from-northern-Maine-in-the-late-1800s-could-be-without-things-getting-weird(er?), ol' coot LLBean. But you knew that, didn't you? 

Wednesday, September 04, 2013

It Really is Okay to Be Takaei! Or a Supporter.

We'll.have to work on a name for that. Right now it's the Takei Straight Alliance. And, in fact, that's how this post started out. As a response to questions people had and comments they made about some T-shirts George Takei sells and is promoting. But, again I digressed off topic. Well, not really so much off topic but deeper than I needed to go, addressing social issues instead of just merchandising. So I brought my comments over here to share. This started as a Facebook post and is straight off the cuff. I will probably go over it tomorrow, make some minor changes, maybe add some major thoughts. But here it is for now, in all its naked glory. Don't worry. I used that term figuratively, not literally. There will be no naked pictures accompanying this article. None.

From Facebook, George Takei's page:
Uncle George, it seems the shirts are being printed as ordered. That means there's no pre-printed stock. It shouldn't be difficult, using this business strategy, to allow larger sizes at an extra $1-2 and to have them change the type color on the white shirts to a readable color, like pink or purple. Just add a comments section where people can make those requests. Of course there would be an upcharge for larger sizes because of the extra material and specialty small runs. But changing the type color on the white shirt should be free. I am assuming, since they don't print in bulk but as orders are received, this is a company similar to Cafe Press, which can be very versatile in providing the exact product you want by making necessary changes.  You could also offer a lesser quality t-shirt to help reduce the price. Some of the shirts I have received in exchange for donations were made in African countries with thin cotton and smaller sizing. I don't mind. I just order a larger size and, if necessary, wear a plain t-shirt underneath for warmth. The point isn't really to "dress well" but to vocally, financially, and proudly show support for what you believe in, and to spark discussion with others about the issue. I have spoken to tens of people about one.org and a couple have joined up. Hopefully, when I get your shirt in a couple of weeks the same will happen.

Thank you for your efforts and for providing this space that breaks the ice, often with humor, to allow people to participate in open discourse in an honest and non-threatening way. It helps us straights know about the hidden issues LGBTs experience, it allows LGBTs to constructively criticize how we act, what we should or shouldn't do, what might make things worse instead of better, what makes things even better than good. We can ask questions with little fear of embarrassment -though there's always that one asshole...

Uncle George, who knows the importance of a safe haven, providing a virtual cyber haven for hundreds of thousands of people. I especially like to see folks, gay and straight, coming here from other countries and sharing their experiences. Here in the US the issue of marriage equality is currently at the forefront. But as was so brutally brought back to the front in NYC is that there is still homophobia bubbling under the surface. While we have made strides towards acceptance, even though some is passive or just apathy, there is still prejudice and still machismo that turns that prejudice to brutal violence.

But now we've reached a point where we have made enough progress in the US that we can look and "work"  elsewhere and share our experiences with LGBT and straight alliances about how to deal with every level of harassment, how to provide safe havens and let those in need know how to reach them, show people how to act in public based on what is culturally acceptable even while trying to change the culture. It will be more difficult in many other countries with mono-cultural control rather than in a multi-cultured country like the US or Canada.

It will be especially difficult in places like Russia where homophobia is legalized, and where violence against is becoming commonplace; the LGBT and Straight Alliance can and will be violently attacked by vigilantes who know they can use brutality with impunity. And they do. And on the one hand we want to just get all the LGBT peoples out of Russia, give them asylum, 'help' them. But that creates at least as much pain and problems as it would solve. Many of these people love their country, are proud Russians, except for how they are being perceived and treated because of their orientation/gender issues or their support of thse in that microcosm of society being singled out. But many would rather stay and fight. The way blacks and whites fought our US Civil War and 100 years later for Civil Rights. It IS. A worthy cause, and people ARE willing to fight and be imprisoned and, yes, die for what they believe in.

Hoo, boy. I digressed quite a bit here! I'm going to copy this and put it on my blog so people can read it and comment on it. I may add to it, or even just write another, related post.

George, I apologize for hijacking so much space. Sometimes I can't control a surge and I either overflow the dam or force the floodgates open!

Thank you for the opportunity! You are the kind of man one can love without never having met him.
XO, Uncle George Takei. XO