Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Thank You!

I’d like to send out a big Thank You to everybody who helped me out during all my surgeries: seriously, you helped a lot.

First to Mother, who came in to town and took care of me post-op on each surgery: I simply could not have done it without your help. There is truth to the old saying that nothing is better than one’s mother when you’re not feeling well. I love you! The flowers were nice, too – even though they weren’t exactly what you ordered.

Next to Rob, who drove me to and from the hospital and all the follow up doctor’s visits – even though it cut in to his Dad time with his children. I really appreciate it.

To GDM, for being so understanding and for providing employment & the insurance that paid for all of this. They allowed me to take time off work, even though I had already used up most of my paid leave time by going to the Amazon in February – and they even bought me a Get Well package of tea from Summit Spice. Thank You!

Thanks to my best friends Kat for sending me a package in the mail: hand-made chocolates all the way from Potsdam New York! I didn’t realize until I opened the box just how much I really needed good chocolate. My friend, you know me well.

Thank you, also, to Debbie for the yummy fruit bouquet – not only did I get to eat chocolate dipped strawberries & pineapple, but now I have a nice blue mug to remember you by each time I use it!

And to everybody who sent me their healing thoughts & prayers, it worked. I survived with minimal discomfort and am healing up quickly. I am so blessed to have such wonderful friends & family.

I love you all. 

Monday, October 29, 2012


“Get ready for a fight.” My niece warned me. And she should know: she’s had to deal with insurance a lot in her life.

But I honestly have to say that I am actually rather impressed with the insurance company so far. They have been more than helpful when I call to ask questions, and any misunderstandings that have occurred have been on my part. I simply didn't understand their policy regarding what is and what isn't covered. Once they explained it all to me, it made perfect sense.

Here are the numbers so far, keeping in mind that fact that I don’t have everything from this final surgery in yet.

Surgery on my neck cost $99,224.64  
          of which I will have to pay $8,681.46

Surgery on my shoulder cost $32,252.32  
          of which I will have to pay $1,708.20

Everything together comes to a grand total of $131,476.96
          My total bill will be about $10,389.66

Physical Therapy

A critical part of my recovery this time includes physical therapy sessions. My doctor has prescribed twice a week for at least a month at Alaska Health Quest off of 42nd street.

So far, I’m really enjoying it!

The first session wasn't too exciting. They did a bunch of measuring to get a baseline on range of movement and strength. They asked about my pain levels and medications. Then they did 15 minutes of ultrasonic treatment to “promote bone healing.”

That actually made me hurt worse than the surgery itself did! My shoulder had been fine up to that point. The next day it was all swollen and extremely painful – to the point where I actually took some of the pain pills just to get some sleep that night!

Thankfully, my second session went much better. This time, the therapist just did a manual massage. Oh my – it felt divine! My muscles were so tense and sore all across my back and up into my head. The only time it didn't feel so good was when she started grinding her thumb into my shoulder right on the spot where they’d removed the bone spurs. I suppose that was on purpose, and that it promotes healing and all – but OW! It hurt!

Anyway, I’m hoping the following sessions will be just as enjoyable. 

Recovery Again

Recovery this time really was a breeze. Apparently I heal quickly…

They sent me home with a nerve block on my arm: I had a tube placed directly on the wound inside that ran out of a vein in my neck and was attached to a pump that I carried around with me containing the pain meds. I could click on the button to administer additional pain meds anytime I felt the need, but it continuously delivered on its own.

The nerve block was weird. My entire right arm felt like somebody else’s. It was heavy and all tingly, and sometimes it would jerk and/or twitch for seemingly no reason. I had it in a sling, but that actually hurt too much – the material was scratchy and the skin on my arm felt like it was on fire whenever you touched it.

Which is weird, when you think about it. I thought the whole purpose of a nerve block was to dampen all sensation of touch! Apparently not…

Anyway, that nerve block thingy (or my tether, as I called it, since I couldn’t go anywhere without worrying that I’d trip on the tubing) stayed in place for 4 days. I was so happy to finally get rid of the darned thing and get my arm back!

Everybody I’d spoken to, however – including my doctor – said that I’d be sorry to see it go once the numbness wore off and the pain set in. I had oral pills on hand, just in case – and they all said I’d be taking them like candy at first. Honestly, though – it didn’t hurt. Sure, it was uncomfortable – but not anything like my migraines are.

Getting control of my arm again has taken the longest time. It was very confused about that blockage, apparently. It’s been 3 weeks now and I’m just now finally getting full range of motion back. Strength is coming back, too, slowly but surely.

One funny thing that happened during the first few days of recovery: Mother made sure that I had plenty of food in my fridge before she headed back home the day after my surgery. I had all kinds of yummy home-made meals including a loaf of home-made bread (which I love). So, a few hours after she left, I started to get a little hungry. I went to the fridge to see what I could eat, and realized that everything in there was inaccessible: all of it was in containers I couldn’t open, or – as in the case with the bread – in a form that I couldn’t deal with. I couldn’t even make myself a cup of tea!

I only had one arm!

I had to call my niece to come slice my bread for me, and prepare my tea for future cups…

My Final Surgery

The reason I haven’t been posting lately is because I've been dealing with my second and final surgery: this time to remove the bone spurs on my right shoulder.

As she did last time, Mother came in to help me. She drove me to the surgical center bright and early Monday morning where I got started on getting checked in. Right away I came across an obstacle in the road (metaphorically speaking): they had my date of birth wrong. This caused great confusion since they were expecting a 17 year old patient, not a 47 year old patient. But once they resigned themselves to that fact they were able to reprint all the reams of paperwork required, and we got to move out of the administration office and into the Pre-Op section of the building.

Here is where I ran in to the second obstacle of the day: the lady leading me back there just disappeared without telling me what to do or where to go. I was stranded in the middle of a hallway with no idea which door I was supposed to go into. I stood there like a lost child for several minutes before somebody happened by and took pity on me by pointing me in the right direction.

The right direction in this case happened to be the disrobing room. I’m sure it has a different name, but that’s what I did. I got undressed, put on the hospital gown they provided, and put all my stuff into the locker assigned to me. Then I stood around for a while again, because I AGAIN did not know what to do or w here to go.

Are you getting the idea here? This place was CONFUSING and CHAOTIC and LOUD and just plain CONFUSING. Not at all like the hospital was. I will say one thing in their favor, though: everybody in there was happy. Well, so maybe not the patients – but the employees all were.

Anyway, eventually a nurse directed me to an intake room. She was very nice but had a lot of problems getting an IV into me. I ended up blowing 5 veins before she finally succeeded. I still have the bruises on my arm where she tried: three different locations! It was brutal: I have to admit I was crying by the time she finally got one. I kept saying “I don’t want to be here!” and she just kept apologizing…

And then we waited. Check in was at 7:00 in the morning with surgery scheduled for 8:30 – however, for whatever reason, they were running late. As near as I can remember, surgery didn't happen until sometime after 11:00. They must have given me some drugs ahead of time, because I just came in and out of awareness periodically, until one time I asked “Did it happen?” and somebody answered “Yes”

I had to ask them to get Mother, I do remember that. She came right away, though, and got the rundown on aftercare from all the doctors. Apparently it went well: I ended up without a tear (thankfully) just a mighty large spur that got ground off. Doctor was pleased, and said my recovery should go well.

Finally I got home around 3:00 in the afternoon.