Wednesday, November 18, 2020

My Experience

 I didn't plan on sharing this, because even for me this is personal. But there is a reason that I feel I need to.

I had a pretty substantial surgery last Thursday, one that under normal circumstances would call for one to two nights in the hospital for observation and pain management. Instead, the time from when my surgery started to when I was discharged was just under twenty-four hours. I was thankfully doing well and knew that I would have Don by my side. 

The people I was worried about when I left that hospital were the nurses and hospital staff. The safety protocols had the nurses wearing PPE that looked like gas masks, and any non RN staff had to come in in a paper gown, mask and face shield. I was taken really good care of, but I could tell that the staff was being stretched thin. 

The reason that my stay was so short is the reason you are hearing about on the news every day. The hospitals are full. They aren't kidding. If you are going to have any kind of emergency right now, be prepared for an imperfect response to that emergency because there are very few hospital beds left. I stayed in recovery for several hours because there was no place to take me.

The sad part about this is, if people weren't so bent out of shape about wearing a mask to protect their fellow citizens, the majority of all of this could have been avoided. GET OVER YOUR EGOS and do the right thing. Cover your face, stay home! Please.

Monday, January 27, 2020

Dismissed with Prejudice

I am about ready to go rogue and claim that this government that we have is not designed to benefit or protect women in any way shape or form. I realize that I am but a small minor case, but it is MY
case, and I am getting pissed.

First, let me tell you that the man who sexually assaulted me just moved out of our building last Friday, so from October 15th at 8:30 in the morning until January 17th, the man who assaulted me lived and worked two floors down. Just two floors down. I was a prisoner in my condo for three whole months. During this time, the only reason I would leave the safety of my condo would be for doctor's appointments. I even started having my groceries delivered because I was fearful of running into him. When I would talk to someone about what was happening, they would be dismayed, and then furious. I would agree, and inevitably the words "why don't you sue the management company" would come flying out of their mouths. Believe me, I have said the same thing to myself  MANY TIMES. I am still in absolute shock that he was allowed to keep his job and live here. Absolutely horrified. The condo owners hire a management company to run the day to day things that it takes to keep a building going, but in my opinion, NO ONE is irreplaceable. There may be growing pains, but it can be done. Other than his two suggestive text messages that he sent me after he assaulted me, I have bug spit for evidence. It's a he said, she said case. Other than fighting for a restraining order, and leaving a paper trail to protect future victims, I can't do a thing.

For three months, my friend Judy has patiently gone downstairs with me to get my mail. I don't get my mail every day, but probably three times a week. Don is here for part of every week, so that helped to keep me from going downstairs too.

Now for the fucking kicker, pardon my French. 

I had a two year restraining order in place to be at least one safety net to make me feel a little safer from this guy. I knew that if he broke the rules of the order, he was taking a chance at going to jail and losing custody of his daughter. He has part time custody. His daughter is what kept me from turning
him in for a year while his troubling comments to me were escalating. I didn't want to risk that relationship that he had with his daughter. Like I said in the last letter, I needed to figure out that that was on him, not me.

So I'm hanging out thinking that I'm safe with my restraining order. A couple weeks ago Ashley even came over and swam with me. That was the first time I had been in the pool for over a year. The indoor pool  was the reason I bought a condo in this building! I love to swim, and it's great for my back. I hadn't been able to go because every time I did, HE would show up. It's in the basement with very little cell phone service if any. There's a security camera in there, which I think that that's how he would know I would be down there. He literally came down to the pool room every time I swam alone. If Don was there with me, he would never show up. Spooky. So I quit going.

So anyway, I'm thinking that I'm safe with my restraining order. I get the mail a few days ago, and there's this letter from the Courts saying that my restraining order has been dismissed due to MY
Civil Court Window
failure to appear in court. What...the...hell!!! I wasn't invited to go to court! I read through my entire file that I had, and there was not a single word about going back to court! He, and I'm assuming the management company's legal team, had petitioned to have a hearing to get the restraining order dismissed. I missed the hearing because I DIDN'T KNOW ABOUT IT! So my restraining order was dismissed. I wasn't notified until a few days after he knew. I bet he was downstairs feeling all smug and happy with himself, especially when he was working in the mail room. I felt completely broken, and like the bad guys had won.

The next day, I picked myself up off of my self pity puddle and got showered and dressed, and down to the government center we went. I think that Don has had more than enough of this place! I know that I sure have. We went to the original office that I had gone to to get the restraining order, and they couldn't do anything. They said that the judge had dismissed the case, so there was no longer a case. I explained that I had pulled it up online that morning, so it is still THERE. She walked away and hemmed and hawed. She suggested that we go to the Civil Court floor and see if we can try to file a claim that we didn't receive the mail. OK, yes, that sounds good.

We get to the Civil Court front counter, and one of the workers came up. He literally had the face, body movements and speed of the turtle in the fable A TORTOISE AND A HARE. He hemmed and
hawed and just wasn't sure if we had the right form for this case. "I would have to pay", he said, almost in a tone that made it sound like he hoped I would just leave. I walked all the way to the bench that my purse was sitting on, grabbed my credit card wallet and said "fine" and handed him my credit card. He went in the back and talked to some more people. He came back out, really slow, and said that he had good news. I wouldn't have to pay! OK. So can we do this? Oh, he wasn't sure yet. He would be right back. After a good half hour he came to the front desk with a woman who seemed a little huffy. She looked at me and said "we have a problem". My heart sank. She explained that when I filed the restraining order, I filed it with my phone number to be kept private, and I had written my phone number on my forms. I could hardly believe what I was hearing. I asked her if she had some white out, or a new form. Yes, yes she did. I'm dying here. I whited out the errors and handed it back to her. OK she said, be in court on February 11th at 9:00. That was it. No other information. We just left and told ourselves that we better leave before someone changes their mind.

Two days after that I received a packet in the mail from the Civil Courts, and it had paper work in it for us to show up to court on February 11th. Yes!! I was being given a second chance to put a piece of paper between me and my assaulter. It was all pretty clear except one paragraph, and you are not going to believe this.

The paragraph states that I (the moving party) must serve a copy of the Notice of Motion and Motion and the other paperwork in the packet to the non moving parties, the man who assaulted me and or his lawyers. You have got to be kidding me. I called the courts this morning, thankfully they have a great hotline for help, and that's exactly what she told me. I said, "just to clarify, I have to give a copy of this paperwork to the man who sexually assaulted me". "Yes", she said.

I walked across the living room toward Don, and said "I have just been sexually assaulted again". How in the world can this be right? He filed a claim and didn't let me know so he wins. I file a claim,
and I'm required to make sure that he gets
his butt to court. That was it for me on that day. I was SO pissed and so sad and mad and furious. I wanted to go run through my condo halls and just scream at the top of my lungs what had happened to me and continues to happen to me. Don knew I had had it, so he thankfully said that he would copy all of the forms and have the front desk get them to this person. I don't even know where they transferred him to. Thank you Don!

The management company hasn't even sent out a notice that He doesn't work here anymore. Nothing!! He moved out and went on to his third building that he will have worked with for this same company. I don't get it. What are they afraid of? He barely did any work the last year that he was here compared to what he did the first year he was here. He would change light bulbs and change the bag in the dog poop park. And he got a free place to live. I understand that I am bitter and angry about everything that has happened to me, so I am giving him negative zero credit, maybe worse. Why is it so hard for the victims of assault to get a handle on things. I feel like I have done everything right, and I am getting screwed every time I turn around. I don't understand it, but I sure as hell can relate on a much lighter level to women who have been raped. I don't know how they do it. I have no idea how they come forward and charge their rapists. Men can squash them at every turn. Women need to revolt. This is the shits, and it can't go on this way. No wonder Bill Cosby almost didn't get prosecuted, even though he had about a church full of women saying that he had drugged and assaulted them. The system is broken. As my adorable bonus daughter would say, broke AF!!

So, until February 11th, Don will keep working hard to keep me feeling safe, and I will keep taking Tums. We'll get through this. I am almost more stunned just looking at the SYSTEM even more than what happened to me. Crazy. 

Saturday, December 14, 2019

This is What Assault Looks Like to Me

So, I was sexually assaulted/harassed on October 15th, and it might as well have been yesterday. I wasn't raped, thank god, because I would probably be in a hospital right now. The fear that I have in my mind, body and soul has been overwhelming. It's one of those feelings that you can't explain to anyone other than someone else who has been assaulted, and they usually don't want to share war stories. I maybe need to find a support group, but leaving my condo isn't on my
list of activities that I have been willing to do yet. If I have an appointment during the week, I manage to accomplish everything I need to do for the week in one day, come back to my condo and lock myself in. If Don is home for a few days it is better, but it doesn't change the feeling of just wanting to stay in my bed with the covers over my head and disappear. I have no energy, no desire to do anything. I realize that these are all classic symptoms of depression, but I'm already being treated for depression. This is down right fear. Because the person who assaulted me lives and works in my building, and still fucking does. I am beyond even knowing how to handle this situation. A couple days ago Ashley suggested that it is probably time to get a lawyer involved, and I fear that she is correct, but I don't even know if I have the energy for that. You'll understand why when I explain how hard it was for me to go to the police. So here is my story, and take it as a cautionary tale.

On October 15th I had gone downstairs to take my mail to the mailroom. An employee informed me that I had some really heavy packages in the mailroom and he wanted to bring them up to my condo for me. I said no, I had other things to do before I would be going back upstairs. He was very insistent, and after going back and forth three times I caved. He would meet me upstairs in five minutes. I made sure I was up there before him so I could have the door open, and he could just set the packages inside of my door and leave, but no. He wheeled the mail cart right in, trapping me in an odd corner of our entry hall, between the closet and the cart.

He squeezed between the cart and me, grazing my breasts from behind. He said something, but I have no idea what. It could have been whoops for all I know. What I do know is that it sent the hair on the back of my neck standing up and put fear in my gut. I now need to go in to some back story for you to understand why I should never have let him near my front door.

Starting about two years ago, this person would walk by me and make comments about how good I smelled. It was the strangest thing to say. For those of you that know me, I am allergic to anything scented, so it isn't like he was smelling some delicious shampoo, but mmm, mmm did I ever smell good. I would tell Don about everything that this person would say, and he would just shake his head and chalk it up to this person being a big goofball. I didn't like it. His next escalation was telling me how good I looked. Every time I saw him he would comment on how I looked. This was way beyond appropriate and I asked Don if I should put in a complaint with the management company. Again, no, he was just being a big goofball. He's a good guy, just not the sharpest tool in the shed. That escalated to him telling me that he would date me to he was GOING to date me. I kept telling him NO, and that he was NOT going to date me. I was happily married and he was being extremely inappropriate. I might as well have been telling him the sky was blue. But again, we didn't report him. My hesitation with reporting him was that he is a single dad, and I didn't want to get him in trouble so that it would affect his relationship with his daughter. I have since learned that that was not my responsibility, but his own to think about.

From the dating claim, he escalated to running into me in my garage and telling me that he would marry me. I was beside myself, and also alone in my garage. I was pissed. And scared. But again, we didn't report him. I hope everyone is saying a big "what the hell" at this point, because I was so incredibly stupid and trusting  to think that this couldn't possibly get any worse. and that brings us to my front door, with me being stuck by my closet, with a 350 lb. mass of muscle making my skin crawl.

He started unloading my packages, which were full of dog food and cat food, telling me that he would take them in to my condo and put them away for me. I said absolutely not. I would empty the boxes at my own pace, and most of them went in the coat closet anyway. He fussed about that for a few minutes until I finally got a loud enough NO out of my mouth to make him understand, but then he started doing this thing where he was pointing his finger up in the air, rocking back and forth on his feet and saying "Sheri, I could do you right now, you know that don't you?" I assured him that I did, but that he WASN'T going to do that. He kept saying it, and was getting more and more animated. I was getting more and more scared. I didn't know what to do. He had squeezed between me and the cart at that point and was leaning his groin against me, grinding against me, repeating that he could do me, close to my face. I had to think fast. I was sure that I was going to be raped and I was shaking so hard that I was having trouble thinking. The one thing that seemed to pacify him in the past was kindness, so I tried being nice. "Yes, I know that you could do me right now, but you don't want to do that, we're friends, remember?" "Don's your friend, remember?" I kept talking for what felt like many minutes, but it was probably only a couple. As he was pushing against me, I pushed back to get the cart behind him to back up enough so I could squeeze out from the tight space I was in. As soon as I could I bowed out from under his arm and got to the door. He was coming toward me again, and put his whole body against my door. Damn it!! Now what am I going to do. He pulled me against his body again, so I said, "Oh good, a nice goodbye hug". I gave him a strong bear hug and let loose, kind of startling him, grabbed the door handle and maneuvered around the door. The minute he was out I shut the door and locked the only lock I had. A lock that he had the master key to.

I was shaking so bad, all I could do was slide down to the floor and cry. Then I realized I had to protect myself. The only other lock I had was a tiny chain on the door that a ten year old could break, so I managed to get a dining room chair under the door handle, grab my mace and crawl under my covers. I heard my phone beep. He had sent me two text messages. 1:wow  2: Just got caught overwhelmed. I was so grossed out, I was beside myself, but I couldn't even call anyone. I had my therapy appointment with Amanda, my therapist for the last five years, the following morning, and I practically fell into her arms.

Amanda told me that I absolutely had to report this, first to the management company, and second to the police. This was a sexual assault, and she knew that he had been escalating in behavior for the last couple years because I share everything with her. Her blood ran cold when she realized how lucky I was that I wasn't raped. I didn't even know how to tell Don what had happened. We had spent two years jointly letting this guy get away with everything. Would Don have guilt for not encouraging me to report his behavior sooner? Would he be mad at ME? Would he try to kill this person? I had no idea what he would feel or do. I called him after my appointment while I felt somewhat brave, and he was my champion. He acknowledged immediately that I was sexually assaulted and said he would be right home. The next step was turning this person in to their employer.

You would think if an employee does something like this, they would be walked right out the door, but no. The person who assaulted me is still living in the building, still working here. There was an investigation done by the HR department of his employer, as well as the board of our building. Apparently this was a he said, she said matter, since there were no witnesses and I hadn't reported any other behaviors leading up to this. Thankfully, the person who assaulted me asked to be transferred to another building immediately. Sounds like the old criminal Catholic priests, doesn't it? Yuck. But that would be easier said than done. Apparently it's very hard to just up and transfer someone to another building where they live and work. I was told it could take four to six weeks. Holy shit Helga. I was going to have to go into self protection mode. The first thing you do when that happens is recruit your girlfriends.

Actually, the very first thing that happened was Don installed a heavy duty lock that would prevent my door from being opened even if the lock was unlocked. Kind of a metal flap lock. It helped a lot, but I will admit that when Don isn't here, my dining room chair and my door are friends. My neighbors are also my friends. Since I am scared to death to leave my condo for fear of coming face to face with this person, I have my friends go with me to get my mail. My friend Judy has been so fantastic. When I'm spinning out of control, she reels me back in. She is a very strong person, and I feel like she's trying to help me get some of my personal strength back. If I do have to leave my condo alone, I have my cell phone on record in one hand, and mace in the other. I am afraid that someone is going to surprise me from behind and they are going to be maced worse than anyone has ever been maced. That would be the fear of having a gun, if you are skittish. Shoot before you look. I asked Don about getting a taser, but he just shook his head.

One month came and went and I hadn't heard a word from anyone about when this person was going to be moving out. We contacted the board, who said they would contact the person's HR and have a conversation. I received a message back that it could be at least another two months, just because of the difficulty in finding a job for this person. I was beside myself, and I'm pretty sure I freaked out so bad that Don was about ready to call an ambulance. I was sexually assaulted as a child, so if it seems like I am overreacting, I wouldn't be anyway, but that fact has certainly added to my fear. Now I was not only fearful, but I was beyond pissed. It was time to go to the police station and file a report and get a restraining order. Judy was going to take me, but I felt in my heart that I needed Don with me to do something like this. I have never even had a speeding ticket, so this was a big, scary thing to do.

I didn't know it. but I'm about to be assaulted all over again. We go to the Minneapolis police station, I walk up to a plexiglass window where there are two police officers sitting, and I tell them that I  need to file a report. The man who decides to help me asks what for. I tell him that I have been assaulted. He asks what kind of assault. I tell him that I was sexually assaulted. I told him I was not raped. He tells me to hang on, while he grabs a sticky note to take down my information. I thought I would be taken to a room to talk about this, but nope, I have to explain everything that happened to me right there, with people waiting behind me. A few times he would look up and say, "so, your clothes were on". Yes, fucker, they were. Twice he asked me to step aside so he could quickly help other people because he could see that they had forms in their hands that he recognized. I couldn't hold back the tears. I felt like I was being assaulted again, but this time with an audience. It was so horrible. Once he's done getting his information, probably after about thirty minutes, I tell him that I want a restraining order too. He looks up and tells us that we need to go to downtown Minneapolis to the government center for that, and says "I'm sure you've been there many times and know where it is". What the hell does that mean? Oh my god, I am about to crawl through that plexiglass and strangle this asshat! Don and I both said "no", so he writes down the address, and off we go on a crazy drive to the Hennepin County Government Center to get a restraining order. Another lovely experience. I now have NO DOUBT why women are very hesitant to report their assaults. They are doubted and treated like shit from beginning to end.

When we get there, and finally figure out how in the hell to park, we get in the building. We have absolutely no idea where to go. But for the kindness of strangers, we probably wouldn't have found the office before it closed. Again, I think that I am going to be able to talk to some nice people like they have on television shows, but nope. I am waiting in a line of ONE to be called up to a desk where a snotty young man is visiting with a coworker about a party he went to. After five minutes of standing there, he finally calls me up. He asks for my license, I start to tell him what I am there for and he waves at me to stop talking. He says that so and so will get me set up on a computer, or I can fill my forms out by hand and mail them in. This cannot be real. I took the computer route. Finally, a very nice young girl showed me to a computer and said that the program will talk me through how to file for a restraining order. Within a week a judge will look at my request, and all of my notifications will be made by email. My restraining order will be delivered in the mail if it is approved, and the man's will be delivered by a sheriff. It took me an hour to fill out the forms on the computer, again, through tears. It was awful. I walked out of there wishing that I had never reported the assault in the first place, never filed a restraining order, never reported it. I just wanted to crawl into my bed and die. I felt so abused after that day. We were gone for hours.

My restraining order came in a week, so this is six weeks after the assault. Now am I not only afraid of being assaulted again, but I am afraid of the anger that this person must have that I filed a police report and a restraining order. I did those two things so I could feel safer, but I sure didn't.

As I type this today, it has been almost two months since my assault. Nothing has changed. I know that the board is trying hard to get his move pushed through, but they haven't. Apparently they are afraid of legal charges, since I didn't have any complaints against him, and there was not a witness. LEARN FROM MY MISTAKE. PLEASE! If your gut is telling you to report something, do it. Don't ask for anyone else's opinion, it is your gut talking to you. This has been an experience that I will never live through again. I leave my apartment once a week, and that isn't because I don't have anything to do and want to leave, it's because I am frozen and can't leave. Amanda is doing everything she can to help me, but I am only currently seeing her once a week. It is hard to treat recovery when you are living just an elevator ride away from the person who assaulted you. A person in this group of people that are trying to help me suggested that if I drop the restraining order, it might be easier for him to get a job. It probably would!! Could he have thought about that before he assaulted me? I doubt that I am his first. I am maybe the first to report his "flirtatious" behavior.

I am a ridiculously friendly person when I am out and about, and that has already changed.  Judy and I went down to get the mail last night, and she was riding down with a young man. I got in and said a friendly "hello" to him. When we got off the elevator I scolded myself and said  "I have to stop that. There is no reason for me to talk to him at all". Usually she would agree with me, but she had been talking to him, and said he was very nice. I hate to change who I am. It doesn't feel organic, but this situation has done it. At least for now. If I don't call, don't answer text messages, don't seem as happy. If my hands shake, it's because the fear is in my bones. I keep telling my hands to stop shaking, but  they don't listen.

All I ask is that you please learn from my mistakes. Please carry mace. If someone touches you and you don't want to be touched, tell them to get their hands off of you. If they don't. mace them. It's your body. I should have had my mace on me that night, but I didn't. My gut was telling me that he shouldn't bring my mail up. Technically, according to his contract he isn't allowed to bring my mail up.I was in the comfort of my own home. No one will ever touch me without permission again. They will have to kill me.

Monday, May 18, 2015

The Hunch Back of Notre Minneapolis?

OK, I was torn between the title I used, or using the tune from the Black Eyed Peas "My Humps", and just replacing it with My Bump. It would have been much funnier! I can hear Don groaning right now! I was singing it last night, and he made a bad face. Oh Don. 

I have a bump. A round, ugly, painful icky bump. I first noticed the bump a few weeks after I had my
second neck surgery in October of 2014. It was right at the bottom of my surgical scar, and my first thought was that it was caused from an irritation from the doctor taking a "punch" of bone out of one of my discs. They used the bone to implant at the C5 level to get bone to grow where the center of the disc had been removed and failed to grow during the first surgery. I had seen the x-ray, and it literally looked like they took a paper punch and punched out the center of one of the edges of the disc and left sharp rough edges remaining. I felt worried about it, and mad. Seriously, couldn't they have taken one of the files off of their equipment shelf and sanded it down a little?

When I went in for my two month post-op check up I asked the surgeon about it. He said that it was just scar tissue, and completely normal. It didn't feel normal. It hurt, and felt sharp. But, who was I to know better? Just the person with the bump.

Since the pain in my neck and shoulder hadn't gone away, I had started going to a pain clinic. I asked the nurse about my bump, and she suggested I have my primary care doctor look at it. So I did. I'm a good listener. Back in my car I go.

My primary care doctor also thought it was just scar tissue, but ordered an MRI and suggested I go to a fancy schmancy neck guru at Abbott Northwestern Hospital in Minneapolis for a second opinion on my neck. So I did. Again, I'm a good listener. No answer about my bump, but back in my car I go.

The fancy doctor in Minneapolis didn't even touch me. He ordered a CT and EMG and didn't really even tell me how or when they would be in touch. A week later I received a COPY of a letter that he had sent to my primary care doctor stating that the discs above and below the C5 disc I had surgery on were deteriorating, but weren't yet ready for surgery. "The patient" (that would be me) should proceed with cautious treatment for the time being.

The patient (me) waited to hear from someone, anyone, to figure out what that meant. I never did, so I took matters in to my own hands again. I called the guru's office and talked to the nurse. She said that there is damage in my neck, but doing surgery at this time isn't recommended (thank goodness) and I should try imagery, physical therapy, ice, heat...she went on and on. It was almost comical. It told me just how little she and the guru actually knew about me and my history. It also told me that they didn't read any of the eight pages of information I had to fill out in order to walk through their front door. The guru would not be seeing me again. But, now I had imagery in my hands, so I went back to the pain clinic. Back in my car I go.....

The nurse practitioner at the pain clinic took my images and spoke to one of the anesthesiologists who does procedures at the clinic, and suggested that it was time to do a Radiofrequency Ablation. The easy way to understand it is that they go in between the discs to reach the inflamed nerves with a cannula or large needle casing, and insert a radio frequency electrode to zap the nerve and burn it. The nerve will grow back, but usually not for 6-12 months. While it is dead, your brain will not receive pain signals from the nerves. The patient is thinking this sounds awesome.

In order for insurance to pay for this procedure, two tests have to be done first with just lidocaine to make sure they have the right nerves. The nurse thought that it should be the two discs below my surgery, especially since my friendly BUMP lived down there and appeared to cause me a lot of pain.

I went in for my first test and the doctor met with me a few minutes before the procedure. He pulled up my films, and for the first time in the past few years, he just talked and listened. It was amazing. He didn't agree with the placement of the test, and felt that the Ablation procedure needed to be between the three discs above my surgery. I then asked him about my bump. He felt it, and the first thing he said is that he thought it was a screw, even going so far as to say that he could feel the round head of the screw. He seemed very curious about it, and said that whatever it was we needed to look at it. It appeared very irritated, and almost bruised. He said that the procedure they would be doing would be done under xray, so he would have the radiologist move the machine over that area.

Guess what. The bump is a disc that has turned, most likely from all of the spasms and irritation in my neck. I have so much tension in my shoulders and neck. So the lump you see is the spiky part of a disc that should be laying or lying or even telling the truth horizontally with my shoulders. "Not cool"...said the patient.

The wrap up:
Test number one worked great. I had amazing relief for thirty minutes. I had to wait for two weeks between the tests, so test number two is tomorrow. Don is busy tomorrow, so Andrew stepped up to the plate and is taking me. I am very grateful, and hopefully I will get the same kind of relief that I did after the first test. I'm not sure how soon they can perform the procedure after that, but I'm hoping it's soon.

I start physical therapy the first week in June to try to loosen up the muscles and tension, and maybe Mr. Bump will go back and live where he's supposed to. It will only be myofacial release (massage, woot woot) for several weeks. Nothing that will irritate it more. I literally want to hug that doctor right now. All it took was ten minutes of listening, and some compassion.

Maybe it was just some compassion.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

A Lot of Brew Ha Ha For Nothing?

It's been a busy few weeks for trying to get some answers as to why I am having such debilitating neck pain, and also just feeling so awful in general. Fun stuff.

The feeling yucky in general thing I think we figured out. At least kind of. For some reason my potassium dropped to a dangerously low level. After swallowing potassium tablets and eating bananas, beans and spinach like it was going out of style for two weeks, I am back in the way healthy level. Now I have to take NO potassium tablets and see what happens during the next three weeks. If it stays where it's supposed to be, great. If not, back for more testing. I already have a thyroid that doesn't function anymore, so she thinks that some sort of  lab panel that would test my adrenal gland as well as other hormone affecting bodily items would be the way to go. I agree. I didn't like feeling like that.

My neck. My neck is awful. I went to a physician two weeks ago at Abbott Northwestern Hospital
who has the reputation of being the "guru" of neck pain. What I didn't realize when I was referred to him was that if you don't need surgery, he really won't have any answers. Very frustrating.

After filling out massive history forms and waiting a month to get in to see him, I had about a fifteen minute appointment with him. He never touched me or looked at my neck. His nurse had me squeeze her fingers and made note of my loss of strength, especially in my right arm, and had me try to walk a straight line for her. She made note of my inability to do so. No drinking and driving for this girl, not that I have...for many many years. (Shhh Pam. We were children) I have been dealing with my balance being "off" for the past couple months. The doctor ordered a CT scan to get a look at my neck in addition to the MRI I had already had done, and also an EMG to test the nerves in my right arm. I have on and off numbness in my fingers and the palm of my hand, as well as my upper arm.

I didn't hear anything the first week, but this week I received a LETTER. Actually, it was a copy of a letter that was sent to my primary care physician who referred me to this doctor. Part of me felt offended. I am the patient. Once my feeling of being continuously disrespected by upper level physicians passed I looked at it for what it was. A time saving issue, and a lack of respect toward his patient, me. I was mad. Mad and depressed. I get frustrated when I spend so much time to go to a new physician completely prepared and get so little in return.

Basically, the EMG showed no permanent nerve damage which is a good thing. But what does the numbness mean? explanation in the letter. The CT showed that the last surgery I had was successful. The hardware was in place, and the bone was growing. That was good news, because I had been very afraid that there was a screw loose (Be careful about the jokes. I know that I have always had a screw loose!). When I had bunion surgery many years ago there was a permanent pin put in my toe, and my body rejected it. I kept telling Don that there was something sharp coming out of my toe. He didn't believe me until the pin protruded through the skin and he could see it. That was NOT COOL!

Anyway, the other thing the CT showed was that the disc above and below the fusion have degenerated since I had the surgery in October. It's pretty common for discs to weaken once you have spinal surgery, and it's one of the reasons that they hold off as long as they can to do invasive procedures. Once you have surgery, it will usually lead to more trouble down the road. Trust me, go with the physical therapy and injections as long as you can tolerate it! So, they are degenerated, but not enough for surgery, and the surgeon felt that at this point if he did surgery to fuse these discs, it would cause even more pain. He wasn't ready to do that yet.

Here's the clincher. He ended the letter with his recommendation: a conservative line of treatment. OK. What would that be? Hello? Are you still there? Nope. End of letter. What the hell?

I waited for a couple more days thinking that his nurse would call to schedule an appointment to discuss this conservative line of treatment. I couldn't imagine what it would be. I am seeing a therapist every week and we are currently working on meditation for pain and relaxation. I have done and will continue to do trigger point injections, epidural injections and facet joint injections, and I also take a cocktail of medications for nerve pain, pain in general and a muscle relaxant. My hope was that this specialist would have a suggestion for killing my neck, or at least the nerves that live within my neck. but nope. No suggestions, just a sign off. Not even a thank you for giving me thousands of your dollars.

So, after the pouting and self pity were over, about 48 hours later, I called the office of said guru and asked to talk to a nurse to help explain to me where to go from here. Another day passed before she called back which was understandable. She said she needed to think it over because she wasn't used to dealing with pain. WHAT??? She suggested all of the above things that I was already doing through the pain clinic that I go to, so I suggested that she send a copy of all of the records and reports to my pain clinic so they had more to work with. Apparently they are going to have to be my advocate in this game. It doesn't make me very happy. I was honestly thinking of leaving the pain clinic because it is such an uncaring and desperate place to go. I tried to explain how awful it was to even sit in the waiting room to Don, but he couldn't really grasp it until he had to sit there for an hour while he was waiting for me to have a procedure done.

It is a thankless job, and the staff must burn out so fast. I would think that people would be so grateful for having their pain relieved, or their medications filled, but many of the patients are so uncomfortable and miserable that they can't see beyond the fact that they can't stand to wait for their appointments. The government restrictions on narcotics have made it even harder for these patients to take care of themselves. Many of them don't drive and are in wheelchairs. They have crabby taxi drivers or services that drop them off and pick them up. They are at the mercy of others to help them, and if those others aren't being nice, it is miserable. They can literally only get their prescriptions filled on the 30th day. I know, because I am one of those patients. I once had my appointment 29 days after my last appointment and after my appointment I drove my prescription to the only pharmacy that I am allowed to fill it at. I had to drive back the next day. It is no ones fault. It is a government regulation in Minnesota, and I have to be seen every thirty days. I also have to have a drug screen to make sure that I am taking my medication. Fun stuff. I am no different than anyone else sitting in that room as far as the government regulations are concerned. Thankfully those are just random, and I have no problem with it. I'm not selling my meds on the street so I can feed my babies. I digress. And I'm going to digress some more!

The biggest thing I have noticed in the waiting room is that no one seems to have any respect or care for those around them. There are big signs all over the place that say "No cell phone use" and "No E-Cigarette use" and "No Perfume Use In Office Due to Patient and Employee Sensitivities". I have never seen anyone trying to smoke an E-Cigarette, but it never fails that I will be sitting in the waiting room with a pounding headache, and two people will be talking in full volume on their phones. And there is always stinky perfume. I absolutely hate it. My sister and her husband have a pain clinic in a different state, and she has said that she will walk out from the desk and tell people to turn off their phones, but at this clinic no one says anything. I was hoping to some day be done with this, but it looks like I have to learn to just be patient. Maybe this is where my meditation will come in the most handy. Ohhhmmmm.

So, that's where I'm at. Riding in the car for more than a short distance is still impossible. Any further and I end up with a headache that nothing touches from my neck being jostled (yes, I have a neck brace) and a numb arm. I somehow have to figure out how to make it work. I refuse to spend my summer stranded. It makes me so sad to see Don leave every weekend and go to the lake by himself. I am beyond happy that he is willing to go to the bar on the lake and play pool with his friends, but I would like to be there once in a while too, and see the remodeled basement. I haven't seen it since he started to tear it apart.

I want you to know that I don't just lay in bed. A lot of the time, yes. I don't move, usually because I am recovering from the other days when I had to get up and go to appointments, get groceries, do laundry and housework, make dinner, and of course, let Brutus out twenty times a day! I am trying very hard to not completely give up on life and everything I do. I know that keeping somewhat active will help my muscles to stay strong, or to at least get a little stronger. I will do whatever I am told to do, even if it hurts, but I am not going to do something unnecessary that is going to cause me to have a big set back.

To my friends who I love and never get to see, please understand and know that I have been through a lot with three spinal fusions in the last three years, and with my first neck fusion failing and having to do a repeat through the back, it's really taking a long time to heal and move beyond the extra stuff. I'm bummed that I have degenerative disc disease, but my neck has been through more than its share of trauma over its lifetime. Now I have to learn how to care for it and protect it so it doesn't get too much worse. Maybe someone should develop a wine that has a super duper amount of calcium in it! There's a challenge for you.

Thank you for listening. I love you, and am looking very forward to figuring out how to get my life back so I can kiss your sweet faces. In the meantime, I am going to rock it out. Maybe even Snooki style.


Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Must Have Been A Mean Donor

Hi there,

For those of you that have been wondering about an update on the status of my neck, I finally have a tentative update.

Don and I met with the surgeon this morning and had a good look at the MRI and CT scans. It's quite obvious that the prior neck fusion procedure which was done from the front of my neck using cadaver bone has failed. It started to grow bone initially as was shown in the 6 and 12 month check up x-rays, although it was very minimal. After that the cadaver bone disintegrated and was resorbed by my body (and hopefully spit out). I'm thinking that the donor probably wasn't a very nice person to begin with? Now there is just a jagged open space where there should be fused bone. Sometimes there is enough hard scar tissue in that open space to keep it from moving back and forth, and people in this situation don't even have pain, but I'm not one of those people. I had motion views taken, and the material within the disc moves, which isn't a good thing.

So here's where it stands today. I will need reparative surgery to fix my neck, and this time they will have to do the surgery from the back of my neck. They won't be using cadaver bone, but instead they will try to use a piece of a vertebrae if one is large enough to spare a little piece. If not, they will take a piece of my hip bone. They'll make that decision in the operating room. They bind the discs with wire and then put a plate and screws over it like I have in the front.

The recovery will be longer and more difficult than the first surgery because they will be going through muscle tissue on the back of my neck to get to the spine. At this point, I don't even know what that means. I feel like after what I went through with such poor pain management in the hospital after my back surgery, I can deal with just about anything, but I don't even dare go there! Don and I had a pretty in depth conversation with the surgical nurse who is in charge of the after care, and she assured me that there would be a different protocol set up.

It will take one to two weeks for the insurance approval and paperwork to get completed, and another few weeks to get on the schedule, so chances are my surgery will end up right in the middle of the holidays, but on a bright note, we might be able to squeek it in on this years deductible. Woo Hoo! 

Today I feel defeated, but as usual, I will pick myself up and move forward. Don and I both need me to get physically better so we can get our life back as we used to know it, so I have HOPE!

Positive thoughts from here on out.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

My Happy Place

I don't know what it is about standing on the beach next to the ocean that makes me feel such an inner peace, but I feel like I could just close my eyes and let it take me away.

It's different from being at a lake. I don't know if it's the sound of the waves or the seagulls overhead, or just the unbelievable size of the body of water, but I am always overcome, sort of lost in a daze. I'm content with just walking along the edge, maybe dipping in up to my waist, but I have never had a desire to challenge it's strength. If you offer me a cruise, I will most likely turn you down. There's just something "too big" about it that I can't explain.

So for me, it is always a special treat that I will never take for granted. If I walk away with tears in my eyes, I may not even know why.

For two years in a row I have had the privilege of enjoying the beach on the east coast because we were lucky enough to be there for weddings. So far there is nothing planned for summer that I know of, so I may just have to take my daughter and go sit on the beach with her and let her feel the rumble of the ocean. I think we're about due for a mother/daughter vacation. I would love to see if it has the same affect on her.