Just short of maximum destruction

monster truck, women, riding, Maximum Destruction, celebrate, ride a truck

That’s me with my brother’s girlfriend catching a ride on a Saturday night as I waved to my husband from the Monster Truck ride at the Maximum Destruction show.  Although I had never ridden in a jacked-up truck before, the figure-8 track of an auto raceway not far from the Motor City is nothing new for me.  I grew up hollering and hooting during demolishion derbies on hot summer weekends in the Detroit area where I grew up.  Virtually everyone in my family worked in the auto industry, the men in my family all tinkered with their cars, and my Dad founded a company that produced the fastest slot car motors on the tracks in the 1960’s.  It seems so long ago yet the adrenaline is so easy to tap into when I hear those engines get revved up!

The racing was exciting!  The effect it had on me was not-so-much exciting as it jittered my fragile nerves.  We did make it all the way through to the trailer races on the figure-8 track at the end of the night:  battered vehicles of all types pulling various types of 2-wheeled trailers for about 10 laps around the track.  The smash-ups drew roars from the crowd and the buggy towing the large teddy bear in a row boat took home the trophy that night.  I was exhausted as my own River Bear drove us home into the wee hours of the morning back across the State lines to Indiana.  What a crazy night!

I am not sure if it was all of the smoke that seeped through my charcoal mask, the vibration of the roaring engines, sitting on those damp wooden bleacher seats, or what exactly affected me the most on Sunday.  I sure slept a lot!  Certainly any of it would have kept me home just 1 year ago.  I am doing better in many ways.  But today brought another bad convulsive episode that seems to be happening again about every other day now.  We are puzzled; I am discouraged.  The healing from the specialized dental appliances and upper cervical chiropractic care appeared to be helping to decrease my reactivity, normalize my sleep/wake cycle, increase my activity level, and overall decrease the episodes.  There were at least 2 days per week when I had no seizure attacks at all!  And now they are back.

The only possibility we can think of right now, after nearly 7 years of serious illness and more medical care than you can imagine is a hidden issue in my cervical spine.  Cervical vascular disease can give rise to traditional seizures but more in the acute phase of these issues than in a chronic phase.  When neck extension can trigger them and the episodes can include a near paralysis of one side of my body then I start to think there is more going on than some pinched cranial nerves.  Have the dental appliances reduced my symptoms 80%?  Yes, until now, they have yet I still deal with the remaining 20% every day.  Chiropractic adjustments and physical therapy  have both triggered and resolved an onset of episodes.

My medical doctor took some convincing then ordered the first of a couple of diagnostic tests after realizing that I have a family history of carotid artery  and heart disease.  I was at the race this weekend with my brother who had a devastating stroke 4 years ago due to occlusion of his carotid arteries.  For me, initial testing shows that my carotid artery is fine; it is the vertebral artery that could be most suspect as it travels around the first cervical vertebrae called the atlas.  More testing should clarify what is going on.  I often have instability or rotation at the level of  C1.  It doesn’t move correctly during flexion or extension according to specialized cervical xrays.  We have got to figure out what is going in these structures in my neck!

Today and some other days recently, Steve providing simple distraction technique of my neck eventually resolved my worst symptoms during a bad episode.  Extreme fatigue follows with an emotional release of frustration, despondency, exasperation, grief, and sorrow.  This has just been going on for so very long!  I am amazed that all of the massively destructive movement patterns occurring thousands of times day after day for years has not caused more damage to my weary frame.  This finding actually gives me hope — that if the episodes stop then maybe I can regain some physical health and fitness with with what is left of me, with the body my Lord has entrusted to my care.  Even those beat-up sedans, pick-up trucks, and other stock cars on the race track somehow keep going to win races week after week.  Just tune ’em up, sure-up the quarter panels-n-bumpers, and onto the track they line up to race another day.

Perhaps that will be me at some level too in my race called “life.”  Only I think I’ll add a little more bling to my frame than the lipstick ladies did to their jalopies during the first heat this past Saturday night.  I might even spruce up the “paint job” on my hair color too.  Next weekend (or hopefully one day soon) just might be my night to shine when the official waves the green flag to get up and go.  Surely that will be a prize worth waiting for . . . just short of the ultimate finish line in heaven.  Yes my Lord, I’m ready!

JJ

Hebrews, 12:1, run, the race, with endurance, Bible verse, race of life

Frequent Flyer Miles

Hospital Christmas Tree, hospital, medical, ID, identification, patient, band

Travel frequently with any major airline and before long you will accumulate Frequent Flyer Miles.  Gather enough points and you can start planning a getaway weekend to someplace warm or maybe remote enough to forget the cares of everyday life.  Oh how I want to cash mine in soon . . .

So I walked into our neighborhood hospital for a test and the gal at the reception desk greeted me by name!  She had my red radiology folder already in-hand, clearly expecting me at any moment (with most of my “HIPPA” paperwork already started!).  Talk about customer service?  Er, no.  More likely it’s a function of my frequent visits to medical practitioners and departments within the past week:  SEVEN OF THEM!

It’s the week before Christmas so I thought I would photograph a few hospital I.D. bands within the bright green branches of a Dwarf Mugo Pine.  Kinda looks pretty, doesn’t it?  Ugh.  I digress. I’m alright, Gentle Reader.  The choking coupled with increased nightly seizures turned out to be symptoms of a sinus infection and all are gradually subsiding with a course of antibiotics.  I’m getting back to baseline.  Too bad they don’t award Frequent Flyer Miles for taking care of yourself or enduring a bumpy flight!

Overall, I am grateful to have these healthcare “destinations” to guide me along my journey towards recovery.  Various medical appointments are my daily occupations of late, mixed in with wrapping a few gifts and trying hard to focus on serving others in this season of giving.   It really does help to put your eyes on the needs of others to help lessen the burden you may be carrying.  I was reminded of this in the middle of this past week, sitting alone in the chapel of our local hospital.  Ever visit one?  They are a sweet oasis when needed.

Thank you my Lord, Jesus Christ, for meeting me there in my own time of need.  So glad you always take a flyer on me when I call . . .  JJ

 

The Dog Behind the Curtain

Dimly lit, like the medical equipment stored all around me, I sat in the vinyl seat of that cold wheelchair.  My head was unsupported as I writhed this way and that, right leg then left leg shaking uncontrollably.  Breathing was irregular and challenging as I pushed the air out of my chest to start the cycle again then again, gasping every few intervals.  Just my legs were visible from behind the curtain drawn along my right side and lit from light in the hallway.  A passerby might see my exposed knee bouncing up and down from underneath my torn jeans or maybe not.  Who would expect to see a middle-aged woman seizing just beyond a dark veil anyways?

Most likely a dog in a kennel could be positioned in such a fashion!  Perhaps to put her to sleep, to stow her away out of sight, to deal with her later?  Only a mean caregiver would treat an animal in such a way.  Or perhaps a nurse in the outpatient lab of a local hospital?  The latter was my lot this afternoon.  And hours later I grieved the insensitive treatment that I had received (rather had not received).  She never even responded earlier to my light chatter or attempts at humor as she withdrew 10 vials of blood from my scarred veins.  I had to ask her with strained breaths not to wheel me into the waiting room where others would gawk at my strife.  Holy cow.  Aren’t you paid to care for your patients?  You don’t have to care about me personally but HAVE YOU NO HEART?

Most of them have seen me react many times before to medical procedures that trigger anywhere from a couple of moments of shaking to over 2 hours of convulsive episodes and long after the procedure in their outpatient clinic was completed for infusions, injections, blood draws, and port flushes.  Several times other nurses have had to find coverage for their stations or stay late to take me to the bathroom in a wheelchair while my body writhed, gasping for air like a child with cerebral palsy.  Eventually the episode would resolve minutes after voiding in the toilet.

Once I was in the clinic having an infusion of fluids on my birthday and ended up spending the entire evening in the Emergency Room when the seizure attacks would not stop.  That was 2 1/2 years ago.  Twice they have had to call my husband to come and get me or bring me a medication to try and make it stop.  Dozens of times they have just allowed me to sit in a treatment room recovering, long after they had gone home for the night.  A p.m. shift nurse would come in and check on me every 30-60 minutes as I stared at the walls or the mobile T.V. screen in front of my face.  When I could walk again I would move to the lobby for another interval of time until I was stable enough to go home.  No one even noticed I was there.  By the way, they always play my fav HGTV in the Surgical Waiting lobby dontcha know?

This time the aftermath felt like being banished to the broom closet by an abusive grandmother.  I could not reach the call light and no effort was made to make it possible.  I heard the same phlebotomy nurse chatting lightly with the next patient after me who was there for an EEG.  And again with the lady having a blood test.  I guess they were less “complicated” than me.  They probably didn’t remind said nurse of her own seizure episode many years ago that had disrupted her life for 6 months.  (She had told me about that earlier this year while I was sitting in the clinic recovering from an episode triggered by the pain of the needle stick and extraction.)  Yeah maybe that’s it.  Or did she just want to get back to the break area this afternoon and not be bothered by me anymore?

These episodes and experiences create additional trauma for the person enduring a serious, long-term illness.  You come face-to-face with the reality that people just don’t care as much as they should or get tired of caring, even as professional care-givers.  Take more of their time, their effort, their expertise, their personal comfort than they are willing to give and you will struggle making up the difference.  You are pretty close to being on your own.  It is not your fault yet it is your fault.  Suck it up and figure out a way to get home and not kick the dog when you get there.  Almost 3 hours later I felt as beaten down as I could possibly be as I walked out of that place.

A warm fuzzy friend with big brown eyes and wagging tail greeted me at the door when I got home.  She loves me.  I love our Elle.  So at least for me, I will be caring for our dog in a well-lit room with all the comfort measures she needs within a reasonable time of her letting me know that need.  She may not even need to ask me.  I know what she needs.  I care about her and know how to take care of her.  She will not be shunned to a dark corner behind a curtain as others are walking by.  At least unless she is barking wildly at the UPS or FedEx driver, that is.  Into the laundry room alone you will go . . . but just for a moment or two.  She would bite a chunk out of them if I didn’t!

Well Elle, I must say that I know how you feel. Grrrrrrrrrrrrrr.  JJ

woman with dog, German shepherd, travelling, pet, Nissan Frontier, trip, jump seat

Being married to me

Must be tough being married to me

A kiss can turn into a nightmare, intimacy much worse

When the beast of illness rears its ugly head

And convulsive episodes ensue and last and last . . .

You never really know when

Some sweetness will turn to black

Your affections will turn to caretaking

Yielding another failed remedy instead of a back rub . . .

No partner by your side

Others asking about the phantom wife

Does she really exist out there somewhere

Or is it just on paper and within her cage of the home?

She cooks alright and keeps the house afloat

But complains every time you call

Of this dire affliction or that when he’s at work

Helpless, other-directed, and burdened under the strain . . .

Months turned into years

As life tried to move on so we

Try to celebrate this or that, have a nice meal

Only to have her collapse at the kitchen table again . . .

He has gotten stronger

From carrying her burdened frame

To the toilet, the bed, the couch, off the floor

Rolling her over in bed, lifting her up to drink . . .

He has had to adjust to this abnormalcy of life

Never mentioning it unless another asks

For the pain of the story isn’t worth the awkward moment

A thousand times told, untold a bit later . . .

Tis the Lord’s will

The believer in Christ must contend

Yet are we not commanded to fight

For good, for answers, for more faith when tears flow?

Altogether lovely

He remains strong

Goes to work and play

To cope with the madness . . .

She waits at home

What choice does she have?

Her calling different from his

Or is it when bound by love?

There is no right way

To navigate a life gone off the rails

Except to breathe daily in prayer

When being married to me.  JJ

The Boomerang Effect

The wooden angle sitting on the mantle was a souvenir/gift from the Land Down Under.

To toss it into the air and have it return in-flight to you is a skill few master.  We didn’t!

Instead we dust if off because it looks nice:  forming a paradox in design and practice with which I can relate tonight.

Here’s why.

boomerang, wooden, life, metaphor, like, things come back, return to you

A trip to our local hospital began after much preparation and somewhat tense spirit too.

Would the appointments go alright such that I could return home and rest before a party this evening?

I brought with me several “rescue remedies,” food, water, favorite medical supplies, etc.

Having my port flushed last month went reasonably well so this one today should too.

Not.

I’d been battling Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth when some labs indicated liver stuff too.  My Doc was willing to order a test over the phone and both would be today.

The liver/gall bladder/pancreas ultrasound could irritate a tender tummy for awhile.

Worse came a “tic attack” with the realization that there are several tender spots.

Gratefully, recovery came quickly and I was off to the outpatient clinic for the flush.

The nurse completed everything slowly as I’d requested; my preparation was flawless too.

Can you ice your chest wall while having an ultrasound, apply numbing cream before leaving home, and finish your breakfast/morning supplements in the waiting room between appointments running only 8 minutes late too?  Sure you can!

But 8 minutes past the hour was too late.  With everything that went wrong, the process would take OVER SIX HOURS!

The nurses there are saints as they let me sit in that treatment chair forever if needed.

Something about that 1 1/2 inch needle plunging into my port never has bode well with me.  Or was it a slight change in tissue gradient from fluids and a blood thinner going in?

The procedure was completed and I thought I was going to be o.k.  Then I started shaking.

The shaking continued for over THREE HOURS!  Several convulsive spikes joined the mess.

Gratefully my beloved Stevers was able to leave work early, go home, and bring me an emergency dose of steroid medication at the hospital.  He was my hero once again.

Within 15 minutes, the episode stopped.  I lain in that recliner chair in shock for a long while.  I wept some too.

We moved to the lobby where I devoured my last bit o’ snack and began to revive.

Once home, I rallied to help Steve get out the door to the party with gifts, dish-to-pass, yada, yada, yada hoping to join him later.  Another FIVE HOURS LATER, I did.

Last year I was too sick to attend a gathering with these friends from out of town.  My beloved sent me a video back then of the kids opening their gifts.  Bittersweet.

This year I got to see most of the kids for a few minutes and all of the adults.  Twas sweet.

Another victory was being able to visit in a home with a history of mold damage.  Huge!

The First Defense Nasal Screens (See Julie’s Favorites), open windows on a cool Spring evening, and progress in reduced reactivity all appeared to help.  Thank you Lord.

My plan was to stay in the moment, just enjoying the light banter and updates from all.

No matter that no one asked me much about things.  I love them in Christ just the same.

So I live a Boomerang life, moving from wretchedness to sweetness often within hours.

I could brood the day long or keep my pretty tops sitting in a closet like that dusted toy.

Instead if my Lord grants the where-with-all to get back into life, moving ahead, slightly forward,

I will trust in His strength.  I will do it.  I will get there.  And like the boomerang thing, the trip back will cancel the trip out that maybe wasn’t so good.

For we will face trials in this life, those of us who believe in Christ Jesus. The real question remains:

Will we stay on the shelf when the flippin’ craziness is done?  Nope.  Not me.

I will get out and try to have some fun!