Post No. 70

First, let me set the stage — the few years leading up to these last disastrous twelve months: I had been bothered with Irritable Bowl Syndrome – not uncommon – for some sixty years with usually an annual attack of bleeding diverticulitis ─ being careful not to consume seeds seemed to mitigate that problem. Nevertheless, on occasion, sharp pains and dull pains to all parts of abdomen and esophagus sent me to local ERs ─ mainly fearing the symptoms signaled a heart attack. Evidently a hiatal hernia and or colitis caused much of the discomfort. In addition I had restless legs along with millions of others ─ could live with that. However, three years ago the RLS started to expand upwards from only legs twitching to my torso, and arms, becoming almost constantly spasmodic ─ unable to sit more than a few minutes at a time. In addition came severe pain in buttocks, down back of thighs, shins and thighs; sweating and chills alternating without a fever; pain in pit of stomach radiating to back; swelling of both legs made all my shoes unusable (Support stockings didn’t work because of the spasms.); while the soles being swollen made walking difficult; and numbness of hands resulted in dropping glasses and plates because not aware I was carrying them unless I actually looked down. In addition, every time (still happens) when I go to bed and elevate my feet the liquid, blood or whatever, starts to move back up my body ─ causing pain that keeps me up for hours and, often, all night. Sudden uncontrollable drooling for brief moments became the norm (really gross). Typing a three-sentence paragraph went from ten minutes to an hour  for, after almost every sentence, a nanosecond blackout resulted in a five-letter word becoming four letters with the fifth letter being repeated for two or three lines ─ all to be backspaced and completed. Sleep deprivation contributed but was not the primary cause. Reading back over the above maladies I realize, for the first time, just how very numerous they were.

Seemed to be two situations leading up to fainting: The first provided no warning ─ could be using a cane or walker and Boom, I was on the floor. The second had a precursor ─ jabs to my back that made my body jerk forward and then back ─ maybe a half dozen times before I would black out. Once I became aware of these warnings I would sit down quietly until the zaps stopped. Very likely that the nerves in my messed up spine were the culprit.

Must remind readers that in 1945 I was involved in the belly landing of my bomber returning to our base in England (Landing gear shot up by German anti-aircraft batteries.). Back to flying after a few days in hospital due to resulting spinal trauma. Nevertheless I went on to rowing 8-man crew at Penn and became a scratch golfer. Reminded of back problems in 1957 when a NY Air National Guard flight surgeon grounded me as my “back ruled out flying”. Too young and stupid to accept desk job which would have eventually provided a nice retirement stipend.

With all these recent complaints VA sent me to a neurosurgeon at a large Florida hospital. After looking at the MRIs I brought along, he concurred with the V.A. that there wasn’t anything that could be done other than medication. I had a hard time accepting the opinion of the majority ─ that many of my problems were the result of a messed up spine.

With that diagnosis the V.A. doctors added new or increased dosage to current medications for pain and muscle spasms. Prescriptions started to accumulate ─ can’t say I didn’t, out of desperation, encourage it. Still, pain. Since nothing seemed to work, more were added without eliminating any. Then it really got messy ── seated on toilet then looking at bottom of sink; eating a TV dinner then felt my head hit side of counter before blacking out ── on floor for hours uncounted; while turning out bedroom lights I heard myself say “shit” as the corner of the night stand opened my scalp — then passed out. It would be minutes or even hours later before waking up. No idea how long I was lying there but first I needed to figure out what room I was in and what door or wall I was looking at. Next step was usually to see if anything was broken or bleeding (Amazingly I sprained but never broke anything.)  Then how to get up? Shimmy along floor until I could find a piece of furniture solid enough to pull myself up far enough to stand. Then, often, have ambulance take me to nearest hospital to stem bleeding. By the way, in most of the above incidents I was in Julie mode. So when deciding that I had done enough damage to myself that I better call 911 ─ my first priority was to use makeup remover pads on my eyebrows, eye shadow and lips and then nail polish remover. Fortunately, bleeding was never profuse. More than once in an ambulance en route to an ER when the tech was putting an oxygen monitor on a finger ─ I would look down and still see red along the finger nail edges! Some readers will say that’s foolish ─ just say you are a TG, TS or whatever. I’ve come out to many through my memoir and blogs but somehow, when it comes to V.A. personnel or ambulance medics my mind rebels. I did confess to an assigned social worker (All veterans using the VA medical system are provided one whether they utilize their services or not.). The occasion was when she asked me why I resisted entering an assisted living facility instead of being independent with nobody occasionally checking up on me. I told her. My social worker’s reaction was “Oh” and dropped the subject. My impression was that she had never seen a CD before, or, at least, being aware that she had. The memory has always been with me of my grandmother who was dead for five days before my mother ─ living in Larchmont, some seventy miles away from my grandmother’s small New York apartment ─ decided to visit after encountering an unanswered phone. By the way, in Spring of 2016 my Social Worker suggested and I joined a  great free service called “Sunshine”. Now I’m called every day to make sure I’m among the living.

The above events kept repeating for months. Finally, the surroundings changed from home to frequent stays on V.A. hospital beds and rehab facilities. What did I do there? Same as at home ── passing out sitting in bed and waking up with feet on pillow or leaning on wall. Hospital beds are notoriously short and narrow. To avoid bed-sores these beds also pulsated ─ adding to my discomfort. Most of the hours were spent massaging painful ankles — making sleep there, or at home, next to impossible. Other than that there were the 6 AM wake-ups to take pills or have blood drawn by inexperienced aids using my arms as dart boards. To this day I’ve no idea what was accomplished by protracted hospital stays.

Continued with Post 71

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