Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Life Is Not A Bowl Of Cherries

In my early twenties, if someone had told me that I would eventually have multiple health issues and be disabled I would have laughed in their face.

When I was thirteen I started working at a small service station about a mile and a half from my house. When I wasn't working I spent a great deal of time involved in church activities, going to school and doing chores at home. I've always worked hard and was raised to have an excellent work ethic.

At the age of thirteen I was diagnosed with high blood pressure. Other than that, and constantly battling my weight, I was always a pretty healthy person. And then I hit my thirties.

My blood pressure became harder to manage. I began having multiple health issues. None serious, just annoying and sometimes hindering my active lifestyle. Headaches, extreme forgetfulness and brain fog, dizziness, terrible neck and shoulder pain, back pain, fatigue and muscle cramping and stiffness. Multiple tests were negative. Blood work showed no abnormal readings. My doctor promised to keep looking. He put his hand on my neck, slightly squeezed (as a supportive gesture) and saw my face scrunch up from his touch. He realized I had Fibromyalgia. I had never heard the word. He told me to study up and return for a discussion and plan for treatment.
From there I began having other issues. The headaches became nauseating, the dizziness led to fainting spells and every pain became magnified. It seemed everything in my body was either hurting or not working.
By the age of forty I had had multiple surgeries. Surgery to remove bunions from both feet. One failed so there was a repeat surgery on my right foot. Female issues led to therm-ablation, having my tubes tied and then a hysterectomy. Once on bed rest for my blood pressure I got sick with a respiratory issue. It being the weekend I decided to take some of my mom's antibiotics, Levaquin. It was a life changing decision. I had a reaction call Stevens Johnsons Syndrome. First and second degree burns all over my body. This terrible reaction to half a pill. My doc said he would have eventually prescribed that antibiotic to me and if I had taken a full pill it most likely would have killed me. Health issues continued to plague me. I began having terrible intestinal problems. I've had my gall bladder and appendix removed. And later a diagnoses of IBS and Atrophic Gastritis. All the while pain and numbness in my hands and arms were interfering with my job and daily activities. Carpal tunnel surgery on both hands. Multiple hospitalizations for respiratory issues and pneumonia. Knee surgery to repair a torn meniscus from a fall in my yard that also fractured my ankle. And during all of this, unknowingly, an autoimmune disease was attacking my body. And unbeknown to me, at this point my spinal canal is narrowing and degenerating. My discs are also degenerating. The increased pain and numbness I believed was due to the Fibromyalgia. I would discover later that it wasn't. I had also developed severe pain in my upper jaw, believing it to be tooth pain. Three root canals, a five tooth bridge and several thousand dollars later I saw an ENT that diagnosed the problem as Trigeminal Neuralgia (a.k.a. the suicide disease). I left his office in tears wondering "what next?" ....Still having the neck and back pain I finally have an MRI which revealed three lumbar herniated discs and four cervical           herniated discs. One critical. I had cervical fusion surgery to repair the critical issue. One week post-op I was hospitalized for pneumonia and for a terrible allergic reaction that I had to the steri-strips. Not only did I have 4"x4" square burn on my neck I also had a goiter from the underlying inflammation. The only good thing about that allergic reaction and subsequent hospitalization was that the floor physician questioned my frequent bouts of pneumonia. He tested me for a deficiency in immunoglobulin G, antibodies in the blood that fight infection. I was positive for the deficiency and immediately began monthly IV blood treatments. Although my infections decreased my other symptoms were getting worse. As soon as I was healed from the neck surgery I had lumbar lamenectomy to repair the discs in my lower back. Between these surgeries it seemed every health issue I ever had and every symptom associated began to magnify by a hundred. Body numbness, dizziness, swelling, burning and redness in my feet. Extreme sensitivity to hot and cold temperature. Very little physical activity led to profuse sweating. Days and nights were filled with nausea and extreme exhaustion. Unexplained hives and rashes. Muscle cramping, twitching and weakness.
After a weekend of swollen feet and red burning skin I head off to see my general practitioner, photos in hand, to find out what's up. He takes one look at the photos, slumps his shoulders, leaves the room and returns with a neurologist. The news was not good. Diagnoses Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy/Complex Regional Pain Syndrome. I've since seen a specialist who confirmed the diagnoses. Dysautonomia.... POTS..... RSD/CRPS. And he said that the RSD would likely spread from my feet up to my hips and lower back. He was right. It's spreading.
So here I am, forty-five, can't work and can't do the activities I once loved. I spend most of my time at home on the couch or pattering around the house. I rarely see friends or family.

Life is not what I expected it to be. And it certainly isn't a bowl of cherries.

K.I. Real

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