So much to bear

The weight of my world is heavy on my shoulders right now. To move forward (or to even make my way through the current burdens) seems too much to bear. I seek my Lord’s face, lie face down in front of His cross, and just hold on for dear life during the hellish parts. In fact, holding on, just trying to breathe was the most I could do yesterday afternoon.

The local oral surgery group that helped me in the past, finally decided to move up my appointment for a consultation. I need an infected tooth extracted ASAP. Once I found out that it could be contributing to the worst of my health issues, my focus sharpened on getting it outta there! But that is a tough goal to achieve when the world is shut down due to the coronavirus pandemic. Most dental and hospital services are shut down if deemed “non-essential.” The definition of “essential” seems to vary among various medical specialties, however. Three weeks went by after my need was identified; no one could help me anywhere in my state or the country unless I waited at least two months!

After an hour wait in the waiting room of the oral surgery practice, everyone equally spaced for social distancing and many persons donning some type of mask, I was led to a dark and cold dental suite. A metal tray table near me was covered with layers of sterile tools and surgical draping. The medical assistant had already screened me for COVID19 by taking my temperature, instructed me that a new panoramic xray would be needed because they couldn’t get my CD or thumb drive from my referring dentist to work right, uploaded the new pano, and begun to review the consent forms for a tooth extraction procedure. Say what? TODAY? This wasn’t just a consultation?

Five years ago another oral surgeon in this practice required that extraction of what would be discovered as 2 infected teeth, had to be done in a hospital setting. Dr. R didn’t want the liability and clinical risks of a seizure occurring in their outpatient office setting. We agreed and braced ourselves for a $10,000+ bill, out-of-pocket! Such is the nature of dental care when done in the outpatient department of a hospital these days. The procedure was successful and miraculously our medical insurance paid for everything! The drain on our household emergency fund was reimbursed. We were amazed! And many of my symptoms improved over the subsequent 6-8 months of healing. I also had fewer triggers of convulsive episodes as a result. That is, after one hell of an initial recovery process, with virtually NO PAIN MANAGEMENT due to medication side effects. That part was hell.

So flash forward to yesterday, when I knew that this new oral surgeon would probably need a reason to schedule the extraction sooner rather than later, if it couldn’t be done with a simple numbing procedure in their office. Some Nurse Practitioner thought it would be alright to do so even after reviewing my case on the phone a second time. Not! But I still knew that Dr. S would probably have to see a seizure to make this determination. I know. Every single type of healthcare provider that I have seen while battling serious illness over 8 years has not take me seriously until he or she sees a violent convulsive episode in-person. And even when the Practitioner does witness one, the clinical assessment of my condition varies widely. Would Dr. S believe me that jaw pain and an infection was in fact triggering seizures like they had in the past? I came into this appointment having had only 2 hours of sleep the night before, hampered by a 40+ minute episode in the middle of the night when unable to fall asleep. Just tap on my teeth buddy, I have a feeling that you will find what you are seeking.

Dr. S said that the new pano clearly showed evidence of infection. Then he examined and tapped on my teeth. The violent hell that ramped up thereafter prompted him to schedule an extraction in the hospital as soon as possible!

It all started with a little shaking then quickly ramped up into twisting/writhing movements of my torso, intermittent vocalization, head-banging, and desperate gasps for air. “Just breathe. Breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth,” was the broken record I heard from the voices around me like a thousand times before. I was able to blurt out not to touch me (for additional sensory stimuli makes the episodes worse) and that supplemental oxygen might help. They put an oxygen saturation monitor on one of my fingers and wrestled a larger cannula around my face. My eyes pulled shut and my photo-sensitivity kicked in from the uncovered window in front of the exam chair, burning through my eyelids. The Doc braced me from the right and had another staff person brace me from the left so that I wouldn’t fall off of the chair. My arms yanked inward to my chest in a flexion posture, typical of these episodes. My head rolled back then pulled forward again and again like dead weight on a pulley. Finally I was able to get enough respiration going to push out the words for someone to get my husband. “Have him bring the glutathione . . . . from a bag in our truck.”

Steve basically knows what to do to help me in these moments of crisis. But someone else putting a rescue remedy in my mouth for me usually won’t work well. If he misses and the liquid or pill or snack bar runs down my face then that light-touch sensation sends me into a more violent tailspin of seizing. I have to find a way to get my arms to work, to hold the medicine of sorts, and to get it into my mouth between waves of waking seizure attacks. It takes every bit of body scanning and mechanics, awareness of my surroundings despite the finding that my eyes won’t open, and numerous calculations to figure out how to get it done. It takes many failed attempts before success. Are my arms working again yet? Can I flex my trunk forward to put the TMJ dental appliance into my mouth since I can’t bring either hand to my face? We all gotta wait it out through my trial and error.

Initiation of movement worsens the episode at all points once it has started and even when finally nearing its resolution. If I employ whatever cognitive override I may have to grasp a bottle and squirt something in my mouth from my clenched fist slammed into my chest wall, there is often a price to pay even if I am successful. Initiation of active movement triggers another spike in the wretched involuntary posturing that follows. And it kills my neck! Then there’s the hemiparesis phenomenon: virtually always I either can’t move my arms, move my legs, or move some combination of either one. Trying to open my eyes too soon brings the sensation of glaring light that triggers a slam backwards again. The worst part is that I am awake the whole time this torture is occurring. Most people are unconscious during seizures. Not me. I am aware and feel and remember everything. And there is very little I can do to help myself. Guttural cries or grunts or fires of grief often explode from deep within me, sometimes yelling for the Lord’s mercy. There can be screams of terror. Tears drip from my eyes before most of these are over. The experience is a living hell. And they still happen virtually every day. For eight years!

The extra oxygen did nothing to help me. I wasn’t sure if it would help this time or not. There was a time in the early visits to the Emergency Room that pure oxygen calmed down the episode. Not today. The glutathione did reduce the velocity of the involuntary movements. The “waking seizure” transitioned to a pressured-type of shaking. Little breaks started where I could catch my breath and try to breathe in the O2 in from my nose as directed. But the episode wasn’t stopping yet. The area below my tooth was still stinging and I knew that the episode might not stop until the pain subsided. The tips of my toes and fingers burned. At home we had topical lidocaine, a numbing agent that my Craniomandibular Specialist in Florida had ordered in January. I asked for lidocaine and helped the nurse anesthetist figure out where tooth #19 was in my mouth. She didn’t know. The seizing slowed another notch. I struggled like an addict shooting up crack cocaine to switch out bite splints, hoping to take some pressure off of my jaw. Then suddenly, the hell was over. Eventually I was able to open my eyes. And all I could do was stare out there in front of me, or to nowhere, at nothing at all. Anyone think there is cranial nerve involvement in this serious illness? Mandibular branch of the trigeminal nerve? Yeah, me too.

The nurse needed consent forms signed for the tooth extraction to be scheduled in the hospital. Another 30 minutes later, I could move my arms and hands enough to manipulate a pen to sign my name. Over an over again, I worked hard to manipulate the pen. I had a little shaky spike. Eventually the papers got signed, I could sit at the edge of the chair, head to the bathroom for some supervised voiding, cautiously walk to the front desk, and leave the building as a beaten puppy. I was fried! And hungry!

I couldn’t wait to eat the food I had brought along with me while my hero, Steve, drove us to our next destination. I was faminshed. I had not had enough time to eat breakfast before the appointment at the oral surgeon’s office. Now there were more phone calls to make to set up my home healthcare that will begin this coming week. I needed to make arrangements for curbside pick-up with for essential and non-essential business we had to do before heading home. Life goes on and so do other aspects of my healthcare, my life. Steve had to get back home and back to work. Gratefully there were free plants in the mix as well. Maybe another time I can describe the score of free, cool-season flowers I acquired in exchange for a patch of yellow prickly pear cactus from our backyard . . .

No, it’s not all hell in my world. Yesterday there was much of it to bear though. Tomorrow will be better. The death of Jesus Christ on a Friday and His resurrection on a Sunday reminds me of this. One day, all suffering in this life will end including mine, including yours. Your sins can be forgiven, heart made whole, and hope restored Gentle Reader. Don’t bear suffering alone! I don’t. And I won’t no matter how much there is to bear. My Lord is the only reason I survive and in my spirit overcome the darkness of our fallen world to brain-dump here at 4:48 on a Saturday morning.

Again, Sunday is coming. Will you be there? :J

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