Report from today’s doctor visit

I saw my primary care doctor today for the first time since mid-December to discuss bilateral upper arm/shoulder pain. As expected, I couldn’t get on the scale since there was nothing to hold on to, but that wasn’t a problem. Blood pressure was excellent (112/60) with slightly elevated temp. She concurred with my self-diagnosis of biceps tendonitis from overuse. Pain started after I got my new AFO’s which I put on every day with lots more walking, which puts extra pressure on the arms using the walker. I’m already taking a strong anti-inflammatory for arthritis which she wants me to continue, adding Flexoril to help relax the muscles, and she put through orders for additional therapy for the shoulders.

My earache is because of fluid on the ear but it’s not infected. It’s bad allergy season for me right now, which isn’t helping since I’m allergic to all the flowering things. I’m to make sure I take Flonase every day which I’ve been doing but not very regularly. The cough will also benefit from Flonase and a return to the hated Netipot.

I’ve also been prescribed Cymbalta as an anti-depressant, which I think is needed. This has been a very long eight months and I’ve had a harder and harder time staying positive and motivated. The medicine will help me get to a better place after I give it time to get in the system. I’m starting with the “old person” dose but it can titrate up if needed.

We also discussed a conversation I need to have with therapy about walking on my own in the apartment with a walker. I wasn’t allowed to do this before, but at some point, I need to be able to do it, so what needs to happen to make that possible? Feeding the cats and cleaning up their litterbox (and cat vomit) are best done from a chair to minimize fall risk, but walking to the kitchen or out to the porch shouldn’t be hard to do. I haven’t been close to falling and have been more worried about just being tired and needing to sit down. This shouldn’t be a problem in the apartment, unlike the hallway that has no chairs. Something for me to bring up with PT tomorrow.

Mind on a hamster wheel

It’s been very hard to concentrate on anything important today. I’m not sleeping well, after weeks of mostly sleeping like the dead, and I wake up with spasms in my right butt where I’ve had problems with SI joint pain for years. Not sure why it’s hitting me these last few days; maybe I had so many other distractions earlier in therapy that that part of the anatomy didn’t really bother me. But it sure as heck is now. I also have pain on the right side of the neck up into the scalp, so I’m going to do as much stretching as I can do before heading to bed.

It’s not helping that my regular evening meds are not coming at consistent times, which makes it harder. I just can’t settle down until the restless leg med has had a chance to work, usually about 2 hours before sleep. When I don’t get anything until 9:20 instead, that just doesn’t work. I’ve talked with the Director of Nursing about this before, but also know that there have been some off the wall problems with a resident having a really bad case of Sundowner’s on top of separation anxiety. And there are staff shortages here. [Update – I just got my night meds at 6:30pm to take when I’m ready; good job, team.]

I’m grateful that I can do almost everything for myself now and am not at the mercy of the call bells that sometimes ring and ring and ring for long stretches before there’s a response. I know my body and what it normally does so can plan accordingly. For example, no more liquids after 6pm or I’ll end up having to get up multiple times to pee, which means lifting legs out of the bed, putting on the gripper socks, transferring to the chair, into the bathroom, and back out to undo all of the above. It’s a whole lot faster to just walk but hey, I can’t do that now.

The little back wound is almost completely dried up by now. They still change the dressing every day but it’s tiny and by the time I go home, it should be completely closed over. The surgical scar which is about 6 inches long (I think, I can’t measure it on my back) healed up quickly and hasn’t given me a bit of trouble, which is one thing to be grateful for. Another is that I had cataract surgery in both eyes back in June and everything was healed and working properly from the time I went to the hospital. No worries about keeping track of glasses, which has helped too. I have enough other things to keep track of and make sure they’re within arms’ reach. I’ll need to figure out how to make that work at home, but at least I have practice doing it.

Thanks for hanging in there with me through these daily rambles.

Image credit: Photo 72753983 © Natali Antoschenko |

Surgery 6-week follow up

My spine surgery was six weeks ago tomorrow; hard to imagine, really, that it’s been that long. I had a follow up appointment today with the surgeon and had smooth transportation to and from his office using the Meadow Lake van, which is equipped for wheelchair transport. I had a long list of questions for him that didn’t take that long to ask, really, but I felt that he listened and heard me, and answered what he could.

First, the small wound in my back isn’t bad and is superficial but it appears to be infected, so he put me on antibiotics for two weeks. Second, he is taking me off of Lyrica and Cymbalta which I started taking in the hospital. Neither of us thought I needed them, so I’ll taper off and then stop, which is fine with me. I don’t want to be taking meds just because someone put me on them. [And that reminds me that a doctor here, without talking with me or seeing any test results, decided to put me on liquid protein twice a day. It tastes foul and I’m refusing to take it, instead eating protein bars in my drawer that have twice as much protein.]

One of my biggest questions/concerns was bending. I can’t go home until I can put my shoes on myself, and I can’t do that until I can bend. The doctor told me I can start bending and twisting now as I can tolerate it, which should mean handling shoes and doing some bathroom cleanup that wasn’t possible before. I’m thrilled.

I also asked about the “heavy leg” sensation where my right foot feel as though it’s wrapped in a weight. Unfortunately, this seems to be related to the surgery and could last for quite a while. Full recovery for both the stenosis surgery and the conus swelling that’s causing the leg weakness will take 8 months to a year, and I need to be patient. There isn’t a road map as to what will come back first if at all; no two people are alike. So I just have to wait it out.

But he said I also need to be working to strengthen my muscles as much as I possibly can in the next months. I got the impression that could make a difference as to how much of a recovery I get. I’m doing therapy every day here, but when I go home, I need to keep that up and not limit myself to whatever days of additional formal therapy I get. The doctor was surprised, I think pleasantly so, when I told him that I was walking about 275 feet a day with breaks, and could swing my legs on and off bed, and he wanted me to continue with that progress. Me, too.