Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Maybe Barney can pay your fare?

Out of all the things to catch my (nigh unto ADD type) interest this evening: "Colorado Bus Driver Snubs Preschoolers".

Apparently, the bus company lets preschoolers ride for free, except during rush hour. So, the bus driver, by policy, had to collect fares from the kiddies and their teachers or had to kick them off the bus. Sheriff's deputies had to do the dirty work, but they give the babes some stickers to help soften the blow.

These kids could be scarred for life! Kicked off a public mode of transportation. Pretty soon, they'll be learning the words to "We shall overcome".

Sorry. I went away for a little while. Maybe I'll be back to normal tomorrow.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Incompetents R Us

On Tuesday, 3/13, I had an MRI of my spine. The technicians told me that it would take about three days for my doctor to get the results. So, to give everyone the benefit of the doubt, I waited to hear back from my doctor. When I didn't hear anything by the following Tuesday, 3/20, I called my doctor's office. They told me that they still didn't have the results, but that they would call the MRI unit to find out the hold up. They then said that they would call me back after they got to the bottom of the problem.

By Thursday, when I hadn't heard back, I called my doctor's office again. They said that they still didn't have my MRI results. I told the person I was speaking to, let's call her "P", what had happened Tuesday when I called. She then asked went through my medical record and asked if Dr H was my primary care physician. I said "No" that Dr K was my physician. She put me on hold for less than a minute and came back on the line saying that they had received my MRI results on Thursday, 3/15. (Dose of incompetence #1) And, that she would have Dr K review them and someone would call me back.

About half an hour later, P called me back giving me a summary of my results. I have two lumbar and one thoracic vertebrae out of alignment, some arthritis, and two bulging disks, however I have no herniated disks or spinal stenosis. Dr K recommended that I see an orthopedist to go over my MRI and discuss next steps. So, I set up an appointment for this Friday, 3/30.

Then, this morning, I got another dose of incompetence. Nurse T from the doctors' office called. T informed me that they had received my MRI results and that Dr K recommended that I work with a physical therapist.

Ummm.... OK. I have been seeing a physical therapist since September (this time around). I have even had to have my referral renewed twice since September. Do these people even look at medical records???

I pointed out the PT referral to T and the fact that I had received the verbal results last week. She immediately realized that their office looked bad, so she tried to song-and-dance her way out of the incompetence jungle. She said that though my records showed that I had had PT referrals in the last six months, there was no indication that I actually went since they had not received any reports back from PT regarding my progress. We decided that her office needed to contact the PT office, one flight up, to request a summary of my progress since September.

We also discussed my frustration with the two differing messages I received from their office. She back pedaled very well, and agreed that the best course of action for someone with my chronic back issues would be to discuss my MRI with the orthopedist. She noted that the initial interpretation came from the radiologist at the MRI facility, and that an orthopedist might have different insight into what the films were showing.

Believe it or not, I am truly soft pedaling the idiocy of the above encounter. I am looking forward to my appointment with the orthopedic physician assistant on Friday. Though she is not a 'doctor', I have had productive encounters with her in the past in relation to some other, more minor, issues. I definitely have more faith in her than in the people I've dealt with in the last week regarding this issue. Then again, I would have more faith in the Easter Bunny at this point.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Heart sick over a potentially heart-sick kitty

Due to the massive pet food recall this weekend, my husband tossed a bunch of IAMS cat food and scheduled a long-overdue vet appointment for our two dear kitties. Our older cat is not a huge fan of stangers. So, while she is normally the shy, somewhat twitchy but lovey-dovey type, she apparently threatened the entire veterinary practice with extreme bodily harm if they dared to touch her completely clawless flabby form.

Our younger, usually much bolder, kitty cowered at the prospect of being poked and prodded by the strangers in the white jackets. While neither kitty displayed signs of kidney or liver damage (ill-effects displayed by victims of the tainted pet food), our young lion, nonetheless, was a bit dehydrated and displayed a heart murmer. We can't recall if he had a heart murmur in his kittenhood. If he did, the current murmur is no big deal. If he didn't, the murmur could be the sign of encroaching heart disease.

Let me be VERY clear here, I have loved EVERY cat I have ever shared my life with. However, this two year old over-the-top egocentric clown is my all-time favorite cat. He takes cat misbehavior to new extremes. His occasional forays into affection are all the more sweet for their uncommonness. He truly believes that the world revolves around his every whim and need. And, to our discredit, he is probably correct in his twisted world view. His misbehavior and presumptiveness probably encourage us to love him even more.

My husband is going to check with Boose's orignal vet tomorrow to see if he has always had a heart murmer. I hope so. I really want this cat to be in our lives for the next twelve to sixteen years. He is annoying, amazing, and adorable beyond reckoning. For further, somewhat outdated, exploits of or little king, see Boose World

Friday, March 16, 2007

Back in the barn, if not on the horse

I wish I could be like Garrison Keillor and say, "It's been a quiet week in Lake Wobegon, my home town ..." It's actually been a busy week.

Saturday night, we attended the annual talent show and dinner at our church. The 'Coffee House' is put on every year by the high school youth group. This year's theme was Pirates. All the kids dressed like pirates. The fellowship hall was decorated in the theme as well. Bad pirate jokes were told between the acts on stage. And, the menu had a nautical theme (pirate stew, skewered sea creatures, cold grog, etc.) The best part of the event, for me, was that each table was covered in brown craft paper and supplied with a box of crayons. I thoroughly enjoyed coloring while waiting for dinner to be served. I guess it really shows that I am feeling a strong need to express myself visually.

Saturday afternoon, my husband and I went shopping for the elusive Windows XP laptop. I want no parts of Microsoft's latest anything. Years of experience have taught me not to adopt a Microsoft product until Service Pack One of said product.

We are fortunate to have a CompUSA, Best Buy, and Circuit City, all within a block of each other. CompUSA had an Acer laptop that was still available with XP. However, we went with an open-box Compaq laptop from Circuit City. The price was right, and the features were adequate. Since it was an open-box item, they needed to restore it to its original settings. We purchased a two year protection plan and had them create a set of recovery disks for us.

After I picked it up on Sunday, I took the machine home and began removing all sorts of junk that came bundled on the laptop: a trial version of Microsoft Office, ISP sign-ups, potential spyware (Wild Tangent games), Vongo (a real pain to remove), etc. I then began installing some of my core applications: Zone Alarm, Audible, TiVo Desktop, Open Office, Firefox, and it's NoScript plug-in. I also set up a distinct limited-access account for myself. I don't have the machine perfectly set up yet, but I feel pretty good about the security and sleekness of the environment I've created thus far.

Purchasing the laptop forced me to finish filing our taxes. I usually have them done by the end of February, with President's Day being my big tax day. We almost always get a refund, so it's not like I was trying to avoid paying them. I just hate spending the time and obsessing over the innane details of our finances. Plus, I really don't enjoy sitting at my desk for hours on end, because of my back issues.

One of the prime motivators for picking up a laptop was my ongoing back issues. Having a wireless laptop will allow me to use a computer throughout the house, not just at my desk. I find that my back does better with my feet up in a reclining position. Plus, with a laptop I could also work on the computer standing up at the kitchen counter on occasion. Who knows? The ability to work away from my desk may also come in handy if (read: when) I have surgery.

I had my MRI on Tuesday. I probably won't get to discuss the results with my doctor until next week sometime. That's really o.k. by me. I've lived with this issue, in various degrees, for more than a decade. So, I'm in no hurry, especially if the next step is surgery. Also, if that course of action is inevitable, I have a life that I'd want to schedule the surgery around.

I have a project at work that I would want to finish up before potentially being out of commission for weeks. Plus, I have vacation plans in late April and late June. Pragmatically, if I need to have surgery to diminish my discomfort, mid-May could potentially work for me. (Silly of me to be thinking of all this before even discussing the results and options with my doctor, but I've always kind of been an over-planner.)

In any event, I hope to get back on track on my blog by posting at least once a week, if not more frequently. I may even post again later today or this weekend. I'm supposed to be reorganizing my home office. However, I'm great at avoiding things that I'm supposed to do. During exam week back in college, I always had a superbly clean dorm room and all my laundry was washed and put away.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Missing: One brain

I have been preoccupied with a number of things lately:

  1. My back

  2. My airhead teenage son

  3. Preparing my annual taxes

  4. Arguing with my degrading Windows XP machine

  5. My insterest in an artistic outlet

  6. Getting back into the school groove

  7. My contiuing 'Battle of the Bulge'

So, in order of priority, we've already discussed the status of my ever-present back situation. Second, the joys of parenting a teenager are innumerable. (grin) Third, we love our tax code:

Let me go officially on record as being in support of a flat rate tax system

As far as school goes, I just registered for my next class, which starts the first week in April. It'll be all online. However, I have no illusions that it'll be an easy class. There will be a lot of reading, and a great deal of analytical writing. Next Wednesday, I have to go take a placement test to finish my application to my degree program. Oh, joy!

As for my Windows XP system: The writing is on the wall. Whether it is two weeks, two months, or six months from now, there is new hardware in my future. I think I want a laptop. I was SERIOUSLY considering a MacIntosh system. Unfortunately, some of my favoriate applications don't run on Mac. The good news is that a Windows laptop will cost me half what a comparable Mac laptop would cost.

On to the 'Artistic Outlet'... I've grown interested in Artist's Journals and collage. I signed up for a workshop at a local craft store. The session focuses on a childhood photo within the context of an Artist's Journal. I think it will be a good introduction to the form. My primary interest is in doing something creative when words are not enough. Plus, I have always been a pretty visual person. Several years of scrapbooking should serve me well in this medium.

As to 'The Battle of the Bulge', I have put on about five pounds in the last month, mostly through overly self-indulgent eating. Isn't the first step to recovery recognizing the problem?

I won't even get into the issues surrounding parenting a teenager. I would need much more energy and Zen-like calmness to even begin to do it justine.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Next steps

So, I talked to my doctor today. The next step is to have an MRI. They're going to call me tomorrow to let me know the time they were able to get for me.

In the mean time, I also had a PT appointment. My therapist said that it would probably be better if I continued my exercises on my own until after the MRI came back.

Everyone seems to be leaning towards the surgery option. Part of me wants that to be the answer. For some people, surgery is the answer. For some, it is a futile straw that they grab at. For a few, it is a horrible mistake that makes things worse.

Years of PT haven't really done me much good. However, I have discovered that I feel better if I am doing my exercises than if I am ignoring them. Unfortunatley, the exercises haven't resolved the underlying instability issues with my misaligned spine.

I'm sure the story will unfold in interesting ways. (A reminder of the Chinese curse seems appropriate here: "May you live in interesting times.")

Sunday, March 04, 2007

The back is back

Those of you who know me, are more than familiar with my unrelenting struggle with chronic back pain.

Last week, my doctor scheduled me for a nerve conduction study. This procedure involves attaching electrodes to the top and sides of your feet and sending electrical shocks into your feet, then measuring how long it takes for the signal to travel up to your brain and back down to your foot. The procedure involves three different locations on each foot. Each location gets about a dozen distinct shocks over the course of a minute. At the end of the test, they download the data and run a printed report. Unfortunately, one of the locations did not report back, so we had to run that one again.

If you are suffering from excrutiating chronic pain, this test is tough but worthwhile. Otherwise, no normal person would be willing to put up with the discomfort involved in this procedure. The technician was impressed with my ability to withstand the pain. She said that every woman she'd administered the test to, in the last two months, bailed out before they finished. ... great ... I feel SO special.

My doctor's office contacted me a few days later, informing me that the test results show that I definitely have a pinched nerve in my back, probably the result of a herniated disc. They recommended that I have an MRI before, potentially, discussing next steps with a neurosurgeon.

um ... um ... GAK!

I hate the amount of pain I have to live with. I hate the way the pain effects my life and influences the choices I make in my life.

However, back surgery is an UTTER crap shoot. By most accounts, it's actually relatively ineffective, and can sometimes make the situation worse.

Well, if worse is more pain, I'll be jumping in front of a truck. If worse is paralysis ... that could work out ok. (ok, kidding ... MOSTLY)

I'll post my progress through the process. Who wants to lay money down that the medical establish will try to convince me that surgery is a good idea?