Monday, July 15, 2013

I got sick because I live alone

I went back to work after two weeks of suffering through lithium toxicity, readjusting to a lower dose, and multitudinous trips to several doctors. My UTI bacterial levels were subclinical, so my doctors are going to monitor but not prescribe antibiotics just yet. My psychiatrist is happy with the effect of lowering my lithium dose. And I scheduled my annual mammogram and what seems to be developing into a semiannual uterine sonogram to track my burgeoning fibroids.

Most of my colleagues appeared geniunely happy to see me, and I was glad to see almost all of them. The clinical director had told everyone I was going out on leave and wouldn't be back for months. This surprised me, since I told her last week that I was getting better and hoped to be back today.

When I emailed her and my supervisor to let them know I was back, she sent me a slightly ominous response:

Glad to hear you are back. There may be an issue with using your vac time for the last week. I am checking on this.

Ominous because I'm not yet eligible for more leave time after my leave this past February/March. Also infuriating, because I have almost three weeks of vacation time, since my knees hurt too much for me to go anywhere or do anything. I've used up all my sick time, and now they won't let me use my vacation time -- which I'll lose the second week of August after my "anniversary" of the day I started work in this institution?

I'm just hoping for the best. It's out of my hands. Also out of my hands: the original surgery date, August 5. Since I missed the first two weeks of July, I can't take off the first two weeks of August. Which relegates me to another six weeks, at least, of the damned lidocaine patches. The surgery has been rescheduled for September 17.

Surprisingly, I didn't schedule it with the surgery coordinator, whose communication skills are rather lacking. My insurance has required me to go through a certain amount of physical therapy before they'll approve the surgery. She told me the wrong number of sessions that I had to undergo before approval. And then I got sick. I scheduled the final PT appointment, told her the date, and figured I'd call her to schedule the final pre-surgery appointments, blood work, and surgery. But instead I got a call tonight from the surgeon, Dr. Sharp. Startling.

Dr. Sharp and I discussed the physical therapy scheduling and approval issues. He suggested I have the surgery on September 10. But I figured, why not schedule it right before Succot and Shemini Atzeret? I'd be taking those days off anyway, but with my knees in the pain they're in, I can't go anywhere for the holidays. So I might as well use them to recover from the surgery. My new surgery date is September 17.

After I got back into the clinics this morning and said hi to everyone, I had a wonderful heart-to-heart with the vocational counselor, Vic. He is a very wise and gentle man with a colorful history. Over the past several months we've gotten very close, confiding in each other about our frustrations with the administration, some of the employees, and a few of the patients. He's been a great sounding board and helped me talk through several tricky situations, especially office politics, at which I am decidedly unadept.

While out, I had thought about what I would say to my colleagues upon my return, and I wanted to tell him the truth: that the heat and the lidocaine patches had affected my lithium levels and made me very sick. That I'd been feeling poorly for weeks, maybe months, urinating several times a night, exhausted, irritable -- but hadn't made the connection between how I felt and my lithium dose. And he stated an excellent point:

"You didn't realize how much you were affected, and because you live alone, no one was observing you closely enough to realize that for you," he said. Sad and true. Wonderful as my friends are, there's no substitute for the day-in/day-out observation of someone who cares tremendously about your well-being. And right now, I just don't have that.

He wasn't pitying me. More like, he was deploring the absence of someone in my life to care for me that much and help take care of me. Sometimes I wallow in that sense of deploration. But I changed the topic, because right now, I don't have that kind of presence in my life, I'm not likely to find it anytime soon, and I'm used to taking care of myself. Granted, recently I haven't done the best job.

In any event, it was so liberating to be able to talk to a clinician colleague about my experiences with medication, hypomania, depression, and hospitalization. He now respects my experience, competence, and expertise even more, knowing how hard-won it is. Vic is the third person at this institution (outside Employee Health) who knows of my diagnosis. Part of me now wants to tell everyone, but the rest of me is well aware that's not advisable.

Just need to schedule an appointment with the dentist, and a several-hour block of time for pre-surgery blood work at the rheumatologist (which apparently doesn't really overlap with blood work at the surgery practice). Then I'll be completely on top of my current medical needs.

Except for that caring person with an everyday presence in my life, but I checked my medical insurance directory and I can't find a provider who can supply that.
Copyright (c) "Ayelet Survivor"

No comments:

Post a Comment