Tuesday, July 27, 2010

"I'm mad as Hell and I'm not going to take this any more."
Peter Finch as Howard Beal, NETWORK

I've got a bulging and herniated disc in my neck.

That's one of my medical problems right now. My doctor, the other pain in my neck, tells me thats okay though. He tells me its okay because I'm 45 years old.

I'm in constant pain. Granted, I'm on all kinds of medicine to combat that pain, but I don't remember anyone ever telling me when I was a little boy that when I turned 45 my neck discs would bulge and herniate and I would wish I would get squashed by a meteor.

WHY is it okay that I have bulging and herniated discs? Because I'm 45? Is 45 the magic number? What if I had been 43? Or 42?

I don't buy it. It's a cop out. It's bullshit. And it makes me mad. When did horrendous pain become age appropriate?

"I'm sorry about the leg, Johnny, but you know, you are 23 now and well..."

When did "We don't know" and "We'll see you in six months" become valid diagnoses?

You've got to rock the boat. You've got to raise your hand and ask "Why?"

You've got to raise your voice and say "I'm sorry. That doesn't work for me."

And that's jody with a "y"

Monday, July 26, 2010

and one pill makes you small
And the ones that mother gives you
Don't do anything at all
Go ask Alice...when she's ten feet TALL
White Rabbit, Jefferson Airplane

I don't like taking medicine. I never have.

In fact the only medicine I have only ever enjoyed taking was St. Joseph Children's Aspirin. you remember SJC Aspirin, don't you. The little orange pills that tasted like orange candy? Talk about yummy! I'm not sure how they rated on the medicinal scale, but Brother, on the yummy scale, they were a solid ten in my book.

In hindsight probably not the smartest way to go with a children's medicine, I mean that stuff was like crack to me, not that I know what crack is like, I'm just saying that my mom never had to hold me down to give me some SJC Aspirin and if the kid on the schoolyard wanted to sell me some for the Twinkie out of lunchbox? Well, then, I was down with that too.

In lieu of an actual diagnosis, I'm taking several medications right now.
All of my medications, according to the labels, are to be taken orally.


Also, all of my medications are clearly labeled DO NOT TAKE WITH ALCOHOL. I'm not a drinker anyway, but I couldn't even imagine drinking with any of these. Most of these medicines make me feel like Jack Nicholson at the end of the One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest. My girlfriend can't seem to understand why I get a little squirrely when she comes towards me to fluff my pillow.

The first pill I take every day is a big white pill. A big white pill. Big as in it would choke a hamster. I call this my big white hamster choker. Thus my relief that my medication is all to be taken orally.

Anyway, this big mother is the one that is supposed to take the pain away. It's easy to find, easy to get out of the bottle, and if I take enough, I see Gummi Bears. Sometimes that's not a bad thing. However, if you're operating a tractor, it can present some unique problems. That's where the whole 'don't operate heavy machinery' thing comes from, in case you wondering. Believe me, you don't want to be behind the wheel of a 4 ton combine and go chasing Gummi Bears. It's a bad thing. It really is.

Then there's the little tiny pill I take three times a day. It's really, really small and I drop it every time I try to pull it from the bottle. I usually swallow a good amount of carpet fuzz with those tiny little bastards. Right now I'm in the process of trying to create some sort of MacGyver-PEZ dispenser out of items from around the house. I'm also going to make a little paper mache head of my doctor. I figure that at least I will be getting something out of him.

This little white pill makes me feel fuzzy. I feel like I'm five and I've put my footie pajamas on inside out. It's a weird feeling...feeling fuzzy, that is. I don't know how bears do it. Shit. While we're at it. How do hedgehogs do it? Seriously! How do hedgehogs do it? You know. It. Shagging.

See. This is what I'm talking about. I never thought about this stuff before I was on all this medication and if I was I don't remember. And that's another thing! My memory is shot all to Hell.

See. This is what I'm talking about. I never thought about this stuff before I was on all this medication and if I was I don't remember. And that's another thing. My memory is shot all to Hell.


See! That's exactly what I'm talking about!

I mean, I used to be a walking encyclopedia of useless information. And I used to have a great memory. Damn. Now I'm lucky if I have pants on when I walk out of the house. I find myself stuttering when I talk and stumbling to find words and just stopping as the whole rest of the world goes spinning around me as I struggle to find what I wanted to say and I hate that. I really, really hate.

Ask anybody who knows me. I'm a control freak. I am. I'm not ashamed of that. I owe much of my non-existent success to my control freakiness. Now I'm even losing that. I'm losing feeling in my arms and hands. Unless they're jerking all over the place, that is. My brain freezes up on me and not in a cold SLURPEE-BRAIN-freeze way but in an "alien-just-snatched-my-brain-sorta-way." For a normal person, this is a miserable existence. For a control freak, this is a nightmare.

For an Eskimo, it's even worse. I think it was close to 104 yesterday.

My day starts with medicine and ends with medicine. I'm told that my body will eventually adjust and the pain will subside and that most of the symptoms will go away.

I'm fuzzy now as I write this and I'm sure there are typo's.
I'm tingling too. My hands don't feel like they're mine. Maybe they're not. I'm not really sure I care at this point. Maybe I will come back at some point and fix them. The typo's that is and not my hands. The doctors should fix my hands. The doctors should do a lot of things. But that's the stuff that dreams are made of Horatio.

And maybe I won't fix my typo's. Maybe I will just ride my purple unicorn over the rainbow to my mushroom castle and live to fight another day.

So if you will excuse me...I think I will do what the door mouse said and go feed my head.

and that's "jody" with a "y"

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

So...I'm sitting here...with this stupid, florescent green band-aid wrapped around my arm over the spot where they took more blood today. It's my prize for enduring another long day at MCV. There's a Snoopy motif on the gauze-like material, so it's not a total loss.

And at least there was air conditioning in the hospital. My guess is that it is probably a law. Good Lord. It had to have been 150 degrees outside today. I actually saw a pigeon burst into flame as I walked through the parking deck on my way to my appointment. The poor thing landed on the smoldering pavement, staggered for a second, and then just disappeared in a flash of flame and smoke. It was spectacular. Kinda like the Death Star exploding at the end of Star Wars.

The day was like all the others I have had over this very long year.

I waited in the waiting room on the 5th floor, sitting in those God-forsaken uncomfortable chairs, reading the same lame magazines (Sean Connery was People Magazine's Sexiest Man of the Year in 1989...I'm just saying) that were there the last time I was there and wait for my name to be called.

And I waited. And I waited. And I waited. All the while thinking back to the night I was in the emergency room weeks ago when I was told how imperative it was I see a neurologist.

Within 5 days. Famous last words.

The memory of the voice reverbs in my head like the screeching voice of Carrie's mom in CARRIE.

"They're all gonna laugh at you! They're all gonna laugh at you!"

That sense of urgency rang in my ears. So I was anxious. I just wanted to get into an exam room and have answers. Having learned my lesson from my last visit, I was going to get my hope up too much.

I sat there fingering the straps of my knapsack and staring at the faces of all the people around me, trying to figure out what was wrong with them. And they were doing the same. Sometimes our eyes would meet and we would smile and then look elsewhere.

Finally I heard my name. Or something that sounded like my name.

I am 45 years old and have heard my last name pronounced pretty much every way it can be pronounced. Well, at least I thought I had. I'm not sure what nationality the woman who was calling my name. Maybe she was Chinese. Maybe she was Vietnamese. Tibetan? I'm not sure. All I know is that she took mispronouncing my last name to a whole new level. It's only because I recognized "Jody" that I answered. Even though I was still in the middle of filling out my five pages of forms, I walked towards the back with her.

After we walked back to the little cubbyhole located in the middle of the long corridor of exam rooms she had me step on a scale. Next was the blood pressure cuff. Then 20 questions. All the while I continued to fill out the paperwork I had been given by the receptionist.

As I starting checking 'yes' or 'no' the little woman to my left starting asking me questions. Normally I wouldn't mind someone asking me questions about myself but these were the same questions I was answering on the forms on the clipboard on my lap. Word for word. THE EXACT SAME QUESTIONS!

This is the stupid shit that drives me crazy. Besides, of course, my doctors not being able to help me. It's the insane things like that that make me think I'm in an episode of SEINFELD.

"These pretzels are making me thirsty!"

I would see a question on the form in front of me:
"What medications are you currently taking?"

And the nurse standing a foot away would ask me:
"What medications are you currently taking?"

"Hello Newman."

I would see a question on the form in front of me:
"List any allergies you may have to any medications:"

And the nurse standing a foot away would ask me:
"Do you have any allergies to any of the medications you are taking?"


Fun is fun but I was eventually taken to an exam room to meet with a doctor. Or a resident. Or an attending. Or The Head of Neurology. Or Professor Plum in the Library with the rope. I don't even know any more. I've met far too many people in white coats.

Maybe I would remember them better if I felt like they were helping me more. Instead it's just been an endless line of white coats and faces. I kinda felt like a chicken at the Perdue plant. Without the plucking of course.

So the doctor came in and it was more of the same "blah blah blah" and "let's look at your last MRI and talk about what we can't do for you blah blah blah blah nonsense."

For added drama and frustration, The Head of Neurology was brought in to look at the images of my last MRI.

He squinted. He shrugged his shoulders. He sighed. Then he turned his body to face mine and told me that he couldn't tell me conclusively what was wrong with me.

I wanted to punch him. And I almost did. But I figured prison medical services are worse than what I am experiencing now. So I just there and nodded. And I listened to reasons as to why they couldn't help me. A minute into the conversation, my own inner monologue was already running.

Here's what I heard when I was listening.
Which means...here's what they said they think they know:

1. Orville has not gotten any bigger. And, depending on what slice of my MRI you are looking at, he is either there or he is not. (I don't want to be the one to speculate that Orville is capable of movement or that he is camera-shy, I'm just relaying the information I've been given.)

He's shy. Isn't that just a-d-o-r-a-b-l-e?

2. Orville is located in a very dangerous spot in my spinal column. The same spot which regulates all of my really important life functions. Like breathing. And my heartbeat.

3. Unless, my life is in danger (ie. Orville's growth is impeding on my breathing and other life functions and I'm going to die any way) no one at MCV is going to be cutting me open any time soon. It's just too dangerous. Too risky. I risk either being a quadriplegic or dead. And yes. Those are my only two options. There are no other options. None. No! Don't ask me again. I'm serious. I'll slap you if you even look like you're gonna ask me if there are other options. There are no other options.

It's like going to a restaurant and being asked by the waiter "Chicken or fish?" and then finding out that those are really the only things in the kitchen. Chicken and fish. Nothing else. There's chicken and there is fish. There's a stove, some utensils, a sweaty guy in an apron named Jose, a can of Old Bay seasoning and... that's it!

"We got nothing else! CHICKEN OR FISH! WE GOT NOTHING ELSE!!"

Dead or a quadriplegic. GOD.
Whatever happened to Door Number 3?

So here's what they are speculating on:

1. I may have had Orville all my life.
2. Drugs may be the answer. We (and I say 'we' but seriously...I didn't go to medical school so I'm not sure I should be included) don't know what the question is, really, but drugs may...Shit!...let's go out on a limb here...drugs are the answer to your problems.

And finally here's what they are going to do:

1. They're going to prescribe me more drugs.
2. They're going to perform an EEG.
3. They're going to see me in a few months.* (please see below)

*I was initially told that my appointment would be in December. I'm sorry but that doesn't work for me.

(And...by the way...that's going to be a t-shirt I am going to have made. I'M SORRY BUT THAT DOESN'T WORK FOR ME. I'm going to have thousands printed and make millions. I can see it now! There will people lined up in doctor's offices all wearing my t-shirt. It's genius. Pure genius.)

Anyway, the young girl then told me there was good news. I didn't say anything, but I had that look on my face. You know the one. The "you've-got-to-be-kidding" face. She told me a new doctor was coming on board and he was going to be taking on some of the patient load. I feel bad for her because she was excited and was trying to get me excited like she had circus tickets for me but unless she was going to tell me she had an appointment for me for next week, nothing was going to float my boat or pop my cork. Undaunted she added, that with any luck, I would be seeing a doctor some time in September. The 'sometime in September' part was where she lost she lost me for good.

This is what our medical industry has become. A deli.

You go medical help and they give you some baloney and a number.

It doesn't matter that you're standing there with your spleen in your hand. Here's your number. There's your chair. We'll see you in September.

"What's that you say? You've had a headache for a year? You're losing feeling in your hands? We're so sorry to hear that. Here. Take this plastic number. And these drugs. We'll see you in September.


and that's jody with a 'y'

Thursday, July 1, 2010

So Tom Petty said the waiting was the hardest part. I'm pretty sure Tom was talking about getting into some American girl's button-fly jeans and not waiting on news from a doctor, but it works for me so I will agree with him.

The waiting is the hardest part. So is the misinformation. And the non-communication. And the pain.

I don't think I have ever been baffled by anything more in my life than the situation I find myself in now. Maybe the stabbing pain I feel at the base of my skull every minute of every day is all those questions marks trying to break free. Maybe they are digging tunnels like in the Great Escape. There's three tunnels now. Tom, Dick and Harry. Tom is going to come out somewhere around my neck. Harry will more than likely break free under my right ear. And Dick will...well...Dick will probably collapse and become useless.

GOD I'm so depressed and tired of all this.

So the new goal is to keep calling neurologists and wear them down. It's how I wound up being a contestant on Who Wants To Be A Millionaire. Persistence. When I set my sights on something...well...there is no stopping me. I'm like an eagle eyeing a mouse running a serpentine pattern. Oh. It might zig. And it might zag. It might even weave...It might try a bob here and there...but just like that hawk...patient and determined...probably with a less feathers...I'm going to have some mouse for dinner.

Of course, by that I didn't mean I'm gonna eat a mouse, I just meant that I was really focused (or as focused as I can be right now)

Eating a mouse? Please. Who am I? Andrew Zimmern? Sorry. Andrew. Please. Have all the mouse, camel scrotum, and what-ever brains you can eat. I'll fix myself a chicken (and I mean chicken breast not chicken ankles or God forbid testicles...nuggets?) salad.

I'm good. Really. Thanks. What's that? Pig Snout? No. I can't. Really! I'm saving room for dessert.

So I will try to remain focused...keep my eyes on the prize...and stay on these doctors like a fungus. I'm gonna call every day and see if there are cancellations. I might even show up at the office with a sleeping bag and park myself behind a fern in the waiting room. Maybe I'll send postcards every day.

"Having a miserable time. Wish you were too so you would have a little empathy and speed this process up so that I don't have to wait til October to find out if I have an inoperable tumor that will eventually kill me. Love. You know who."

I'm sure that will do it.
Or I'll wind up on some post office watch list.

I wonder how the health care system is in federal prison?

and that's Jody with a "y"