Saturday, January 24, 2009

What A Difference A Diagnosis Makes.

I've been so busy living life, I've not had time to blog. I finally got to see my favorite author Scott Sigler live in San Francisco for the bookstore session and the pub crawl held after wards.

Being I am afraid of San Francisco in general and The Mission District in particular, I booked a luxury room at a Days Inn complete with a hot tub for one night. I've had lots of fun and enjoyment.

I've also had various kinds of work: for my church, house cleaning and animal care. This last weekend was a dog sitting gig in Berkeley. I planned to blog all about Scott and San Francisco, but life had some serious surprises in store.

Monday, Jan 12Th I was at sweet Maria's cleaning her house. I thought I'd better wash the cup and glass she keeps by her bed. I have been neglecting this task and felt it was time to reprogram it into my routine.

I'd gotten two pairs of new running shoes, which fit my feet better (surprise), but new soles sometimes catch and DOWN I went. Glass coffee cup in left hand, drinking glass in right hand. Oh, that sound of breaking glass and sloshing liquid.

I hate falling. It happens to me from time to time, but this one was a bit different. I didn't remember "tripping" on anything, but it could have been my new shoes. Yeah, that was it! I scrambled for an explanation while I surveyed the mess before me. Sweet Maria did not come running up the stairs (thank God). I called out that I was alright.

I'd slammed my left cheekbone into the side of the toilet and THAT hurt big time. I was partially covered in sherry with small cuts on my left hand. Amazingly, the water glass and its contents were still intact by the bath tub. I picked up the broken cup, mopped up the floor and prepared to come down to explain to Maria that I'd broken a cup.

I also headed for her bottle of Ibuprofen as my face was really hurting. Maria said I was not black and blue. I only had a small red spot on my cheek. She calmly checked to make sure I was okay and then returned to her newspaper.

I went home and doctored my cheek as my normal system of denial kicked in. Another fall, broke something, but nothing to worry about.

That Wednesday, the 14th I did my Alameda account. Funny, I just fell down twice on a hard wood floor with no stumbling, or tripping. I just seemed to topple over to the right. Hmmmm.

I was looking forward to the weekend of Martin Luther King's Birthday. A full four days with Maria's beloved Newfoundland, Hannah, blogging and a bit of work just to keep me honest. I sent John and Maria on their way around 11 AM and took a nap until about 3:30 PM.

I had junk food this weekend, as I just didn't feel like cooking for myself and I just wanted some good old "crap" as my Dr. calls most frozen, processed food. My thoughts drifted back to January of 2008. Dr. Kim is a friendly, humorous and down-to-earth internist I really trust. Any Dr. who inquires: "Have you been eating a lot of crap lately?" in reaction to my unusually high blood pressure reading, is a Dr. I can and do trust.

When I laughingly requested a definition of "crap", she shot back "Stouffers". Oh damn, that's some of my favorite stuff. Dr. Kim then explained about the high salt, sugar and chemical content of such foods. A little of such is okay, but I'd lived on frozen foods for three weeks before seeing her. I'd been cat sitting and living on an entire freezer full of crap.

Dr. Kim smiled and gently said: "No, one pizza every once in a while. Not a regular thing. I suspect when you return to more natural eating your pressure will come down." How can I argue with a Dr. who knows how good Stouffers can be? It was true, cut down on the processed food and my blood pressure quickly returned to normal.

But by God, this weekend (returning back to this year, 2009) I had two pizzas, two frozen pot pies, ice cream and several rich goodies left over from John and Maria. I hit that pizza running. Damn, it was so good.

I fell again. This new kind of falling, to the right when not tripping over something. Well, hell, probably I am just not paying attention. Later in the evening I was enjoying a small cheese sandwich and wanted to read the label on the cheese, so I could buy it for myself. I looked down and was reaching for my glasses on the dining room table when my entire world changed.

I felt myself falling again, to the right. I'd knocked my dining room chair over the last time I'd fallen. This time I was thrusting my right elbow out to try and keep from hitting the dining room bar. I felt my elbow hit and go clear through the back of the rattan dining room chair. Oh Jesus!

Even I couldn't ignore this series of events. I'd made a lovely two inch wide hole in the back of their rattan chair. They had one of the chairs restrung and I remembered it cost about $300. I had the money, but how in the hell could I explain what happened?

I was only slightly scratched up, but badly shaken. Something wasn't right and I had better get my butt into my HMO come Tuesday. I need to try and explain why I'd taken to breaking furniture!

I began to try and find out what was going on. I noticed short times of slight dizziness. Now that I was hyper alert, I always held onto something. I dreaded going outside. I felt dizzy on the brick path with the uneven stairs. I began noting and remembering. It was something which seemed to have started slowly about two months ago. But it wasn't constant either. Oh Jesus!

My HMO was their usual polite, efficient, and kind self. The general advice nurse kicked me up to the next level after only a few sentences. The guy at the 2Nd level had me booked for that day at 3:20 pm. I felt kind of foolish, because it wasn't something I could duplicate in the office. The Advice Nurse said that it happens like this some times.They were going to check it out and track it down.

My Dr. was her usual wonderful self. I laid it out and she asked questions. We established that what I had was a bit unusual, but she'd start out with full blood work and then a brain scan.

Oooh, brain scan, made me feel a little clammy inside. Then Dr. Kim started messing with my body. She had me touch my nose and then her finger. I had trouble hitting her finger using my right hand. I wasn't totally accurate on the left, but I didn't know how much my low vision played into that problem. Although the last time I did that test with another Dr. I hit his finger dead on from both sides. I could feel my fear starting to make itself at home.

"Do you have a case worker?" Dr. Kim's question hit me hard, Jesus, do I NEED one? No, okay, she'll sign me up.

She then wanted to see how unstable I was. She stood before me gently putting her hand on the top of my head and pushing back. I started to fall much too quickly. She swept me up in her arms and proceeded to scare me senseless.

"... you may need to look into assisted living. You do live alone?" My mind flashed on the nice "assisted living" situations I've seen. Ah, joining the bingo set. Where loving people in white, or pink talk loud to you and scream about "... joining us in the activity room for bingo," Holy SHIT!

I felt my eyes fill with tears. I forced control and continued with the interview. Yes, I lived alone. How do I know if I loose consciousness when I'm alone? Not a real good answer to that one. Oh Jesus, looks like I DO need to join the bingo set.

Dr Kim was very kind. I shed a few tears in her presence and she said I could stay in the cubicle for a while to get myself back together. (Oh yeah, right, I'll just walk out of here and have a Mocha down on the first floor. While I MOURN THE LOSS OF MY ENTIRE LIFE!)

I basically was in shock. I wasn't rebelling. I knew this falling business could hurt me real bad. Oh God, maybe I'll be able to get a room mate. (That would be an easy sell: "Come let us live together, so when I fall and pass out, you can call the medics.") Yeah, professionals handle that stuff better. I kept going back to "assisted living" and bingo.

Well, I've longed to stop doing housework, but hell, I can't even give these dear people the usual two weeks notice. I heard the lyrics: "The party's over, my friend." I was just in a daze. Well, at least I now had a shot of getting some assistance with housing. That, at least was some comfort. (Note to self: ignorance is NOT bliss).

Wednesday morning I did hear from a very tired social worker who brought me up short quick. "Honey, assisted living is at least $3,000 a month. If you don't have that. Well, see there are too many people chasing too few resources." I stopped her to inquire about the dangerous situation I was facing and also letting her know I was legally blind. The blindness is now a block to get into certain programs. Due to all the lawsuits, housing for disability is segregated by "insurance risk". Yeah, blindness is a bigger problem than, say only having walking of mental functioning issues.

Then this woman let me know what she didn't know with the stunning question: "Well, honey, doesn't the Blind Center have something for you blind people?". OH JESUS!

There is no one "Blind Center" and there ain't no such animal - I've searched. It was up to me to find what I needed. She only worked with "Assisted Living" people who needed no stairs weren't her job (!) (Crap, this is getting to feel like a Monty Python episode.)

She'd send me a list... At this point friends, I lost it. I started to cry and thanked her. I informed her that I had to end our conversation to go and "... play craps with my life." Man, I feared my life was going to end in me dying in the building by accident for my poor landlord to discover. Steve, my landlord has had that grim task before.

When someone doesn't pay the rent, when they are usually on time. He lets himself into their unit to discover, woopsie! They are dead. To say I entered the land of despair is putting it mildly. I had that kind of depression where it is physically tiring to move. Well, when I get stronger it is back to trying to get on Government Housing lists again.

I called the mother of our church, because I was so depressed. She could hear it in my voice and just listened as I stammered out my tale. I let her know that I wanted to come to church tonight no matter what. I was a mental mess, but I really needed to be at church with my church family.

She asked me about food in the house and I asked her if she could pick up a few things for me. I knew I just couldn't handle a run out to Safeway. She asked if she could do it the next morning. I said that was fine. I hoped I'd be better so I could do my own shopping. I could feel her kindness and love. I needed and received it gratefully.

At church I told the truth. My voice was a bit lower, as I wa still down. People were just plain gracious. People suggested Bible passages and shared some of their own struggles. People could see that, for me, this situation was a true test.

My Internet buddies were there for me also. People don't always know what to do when disaster shows up, but I have learned that when I let folks know what I need "just listen." or whatever, they are there for me. Thank God for the wonderful gift of humor.

People have begged me to go into professional comedy. Frankly, I avoid that, because I am at my funniest when my life is at its worst. Gallows humor has always been a favorite of mine The next morning, beleaguered patients lining up for tests at my HMO were full of some really funny observations.

Always wondered where all the people with gray hair, walkers, crutches and wheelchairs were. I found them. All lined up outside the blood work lab, ready for our 8 AM session. The best line of the morning, after 12 hours of fasting:

"When I was young, my body told my muscles what to do and they obeyed. Now my muscles remind my body of all the stupid shit I did when I was young,"

My humble contribution to the waiting throng was a partial rewrite to "What A Difference A Day Makes":

I used to be psychiatric
But now geriatric
What a difference a diagnosis makes.
Oh man, I'm so screwed.

After the blood work was done, I returned home to purchase a stool for the now potentially dangerous shower. I assembled the shower stool and again fell back into a funk. A friend has a real bad case of gastroenteritis. Basically, she's got real bad gas and tummy pains that keep her awake at night. She and I got into more great humor.

"A cane, a walker, a shower stool and you" Sounds like a really bad song, or novel.

I thought we could do an album and we could each have our signature tunes. Mine would be: "What A Difference A Diagnosis Makes" and she could perform: "The Put-Put Song," Yeah, it is amazing how the human spirit can rise above almost anything and make it funny.

Thursday I actually made it out of my house and back from Safeway. I feel like I've really been through something. I have to reclaim my life.

I may be getting some help on the housing situation and that is a relief. With or without outside help, I went over to to begin a search for a room with no stairs.Rents have dropped to where I actually HAVE several choices which look good. I've always had to find my own housing and why should this situation be any different?

I had to get humble enough to accept the idea that I need help. Somehow, the last two weeks have beaten a new trait into my being. Humble submission and cooperation. Man, some of us are so STUBBORN!

I get my very first MRI next week and hopefully they'll find some reason for my new symptom of occasionally just falling over for no reason at all.

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