Archive for Medical Adventures

I Can Help You!

Even with prescription inserts, my feet have hurt for years. I have blamed it on genetics and my lot in life. An everyday pair of shoes last me about six months. By that time, the sides are blown out and it is obvious that I walk on the outsides of my feet. In the last number of years, I have become more and more aware that I am getting very knock-kneed and have wondered if maybe my feet issue are a result of a larger “structure” problem. When I am sitting in the lazy boy chair with my feet straight out, it is startling how crooked my legs have become. I have developed an unnatural gait that is uncomfortable and frankly very unbecoming. Try knocking your knees together and roll your feet to the outside as you walk.

I finally went to see an orthopedic specialist last week that looked at my feet, knees and hips.  One of the first things I said to Dr. Kerr was, “I’m not sure you can help me but this is what i am dealing with.” After listening to me and looking at my x-rays he said, “I can help you!”  I had prepared myself for the worse; that there was nothing they could do. How do you fix such a mess?

I was ecstatic.  He. Can. Help. Me! There is actually something that can be done.

My Problems:

  • The tendons in my feet burn, especially in the arch area.
  • My feet always hurt. I can’t go barefoot and have to wear good shoes with prescription inserts. I am always aware I have feet. I only have one style of shoe that is comfortable for me to wear– my “granny shoes”!
  • Knees are larger than they should be and it often feels like my knee cap could give out.
  • When I get down on my knees,  I have a very difficult time getting up.
  • It is very difficult to stand for long periods of time such as waiting in line, standing at the kitchen stove or standing in church for singing.  I need to sit. It is much easier to keep moving. Long walks, particularly on concrete or uneven ground kill my feet. Running is out of the question.
  • My hips ache and often my lower back bothers me.
  • Coming down stairs, I like to use the handrail and it is right foot down, then left foot; not a continuous stepping action.

Diagnosis: Osteoarthritis.

I have severe arthritis in both knees, a bone spur, and the knee caps have gotten off center. It is bone on bone. I knew there was probably some arthritis in my knees, my little fingers show “Uncle Arthur’s” presence,  but I had no idea my knees were in that bad of shape!  It is truly amazing but I do not have pain in my knees. They ache and bother me, but no pain. My lower back actually bothers me worse than my knees.

He asked me if my knees clicked. I said, “no”, but as he moved them around you could hear, “click, click, click!” When I left the office and walked down the hall I could feel my knees clicking away! I simply had not picked up on it. He also noted that I have developed a little bit of a “squat” stance. When standing straight, my knees bend slightly forward so I am not really standing straight.

The good news is that it is not rheumatoid arthritis.  Dr. Kerr looked at my hands and said, “See how the end joints of your little fingers are affected. That is arthritis.  If it is the first joint on your finger and goes back into your knuckle, it is rheumatoid arthritis. That is worse”

I Can Help You:  Robotic Double Knee Replacement.

I was stunned as I had never even considered the knee replacement option in my brain.  The first thing I have to do is six weeks of physical therapy to strengthen the leg and knee muscles. The middle of April he will see me again and we will talk.  One thing he did say was that he needed to do both knees at the same time; it is the only way to get my knees and legs straight.  He said, “When I am done, I am going to walk out to the waiting area and tell your family that you legs are straight!”

How Do I Feel?

I have been doing lots of reading online and talking to a few people trying to gather information so that I know what I am facing. It is daunting to think of doing both knees at once and not having a good leg to stand on. I will admit, it is a little scary, but I am also very excited. I have to get through the busy spring months in the store before I can schedule this ordeal. It is a bit overwhelming to think about and at this point I have lots of unanswered questions. I feel this is something I have to do while I am still healthy and “young enough” to prevent more severe and untreatable structure problems later on.  After all, I have a surgeon who says, “I can help you” and I know a “Great Physician” who can help the surgeon.

It is very distressing to me to see pictures of how I actually look and how far I have slipped.  I think, this can’t be me.  I want you to see why I am so excited for surgery! The video is a very short “now” picture of me walking. In a few months I hope I can post another one that I can title, “Look at me now. He helped me!”

I will be writing my journey as it unfolds; I am hoping for surgery in June. I would love to hear from others who have had the same experience.

It Was My Bald Spot

A bald spot on a man can look very dignified and stylish, but for a woman, it is a cosmetic nightmare! As I kept tabs on the thinning spot on the back of my head, I decided it was time to take action and try something, anything!

My friend, google, guided me to numerous web sites and after reading the information, I decided on Keranique.com. It proclaims itself as the hair regrowth system for women with thicker, longer, stronger and healthier hair. And, it is clinical proven! After looking at pictures, reading testimonials and seeing the claim that 1,000,000 women have been helped, I decided to give it a try. After all, what did I have to lose except more hair.

The products are rather pricey, but if I had gone to a doctor and gotten a prescription, that would have also been expensive also. With anticipation, I ordered the kit; Scalp Stimulating Shampoo,  Volumizing Keratin Conditioner, Hair Regrowth Treatment, Lift and Repair Treatment Spray along with their super duper vitamins for hair regrowth.

I have been using it since January 2017 (1-1/2 years) and the results are very noticeable, I am very pleased. I don’t have the luscious, silky, flowing hair of the women on the ad, I never have. I admit I have always been a tad bit jealous of women with thick hair but for me the results are a huge improvement. My hair is still thin, but there is no longer a bald spot.

Now, I just look at another bald spot that I don’t have to have a mirror to see it. Shhhh, I took this picture while he was sleeping. I think he ought to start using my magic potion, it might even make him feel younger! What do you think?

Our Testimony of God’s Faithfulness and Victory in the Fight.

 

 

Over the Thanksgiving season, our Pastor asked three couples to share their testimonies: Thankfulness in the Ordinary, Thankfulness in the Fight and Thankfulness in the Victory. We were asked to share about the lost of our two children for the later. Here it is, written as we shared it or you may listen to it on the church web site.  http://www.pmchurch.net/multimedia-archive/testimony-thankfulness-victory/  (Note it takes 24 seconds for the tape to start playing).

Gene:

40 years ago, we were in the midst of starting our family. We wanted four children and God blessed us with four. Two, Keith and Jill, are living and here today with their spouses and children (our grandchildren). Two other children, Karla and Greg, died at the tender age of 5 and 7 months from a genetic disease (SMA or at that time was called Werdnig Hoffman Disease). SMA is a cruel disease. The nerves that join the spinal cord die and whatever movement they control the muscle deteriorates. Their arms and legs are limp and it affects their swallowing and breathing. Because we carried the most acute stage, the symptoms appear at or shortly after birth and their lifespan is one year.

Pat:

Our first child, a son, was born kicking and making his presence known in the world with gusto. Keith was a very energetic young fellow with unlimited energy. Fifteen months later Karla was born. She was a very contented, thumb sucking, little angel who would lie in her bassinet or sit in an infant seat for hours just sucking her thumb and watching me work. She rarely cried.

 

When Karla was about 3 months old, we started becoming concerned about the lack of development and movement. We shared it with the pediatrician and he monitored her for the next several weeks. He decided we needed to go see a neurologist. A week before the appointment to the specialist, we ran into a medical crisis when Karla developed pneumonia and a lung collapsed at home. I well remember that drive to St. Mary’s Hospital. We decided it was quicker to just go than wait on an ambulance. Gene drove very fast and we ran red lights (of course the traffic was different then) and got to the hospital in record time. Gene dropped me off at the emergency room door as he parked and when I blurted to the receptionist that Karla was having breathing problems things happened NOW. Amazingly, the specialist on call that night was the same specialist from MCV that we had an appointment with the following week-Mr. Myers. Before the evening was over our world was rocked. We were dealing with a fatal, no-survivor, no-cure disease with a life sentence of less than a year. They transferred her to MCV where she was in intensive care for the next three weeks before passing away.

 

Gene:

We were taught and believed that God does not allow more in our life than we can handle. At the age of 27 that belief was tested with Karla’s diagnosis and the difficult journey we faced was full of unknowns. But as our families, friends and church family learned the shocking news, they offered comfort and support.

I remember Art and Phoebe Ranck were especially dear to us. They too had buried an infant daughter under difficult circumstances. They understood and cared for us with love. We remember one verse that they shared with us during that time from Deuteronomy 33:27, “And underneath are the everlasting arms.” Even in the midst of deep testing and difficulty, God’s arms were there to hold us tight.

At that time PMC was still a young church-12 years old. There was no cemetery. The church came together to build a cemetery knowing that the first to be buried would be their youngest, a baby.

During this time my prayer was simple, I asked for grace, God’s grace to make it through each day. God provided. I believed in healing but I also wanted to be able to accept the outcome whatever it might be. Our difficulty would not magically disappear, we had to walk the dark path of sorrow and grief, but God was with us just as the Psalmist exclaimed, “Yea, though I walk through the valley, you are with me.” (Psalms 23:4)

Pat:

Looking back it is so beautiful to us how God provided the people we needed at the time we needed. Doris Ranck was especially dear to me with daily phone calls. Sheila Schaefer and Janis Ranck babysat many hours.

At one point during Karla’s illness, MCV was doing what medical facilities do, prepare the family for taking their loved one home. This was a big deal. Karla literally needed round the clock care; suctioning equipment, heart monitor, oxygen, and feeding tube. I am not a nurse, but they started teaching me to do all those things. It was overwhelming. Doris helped us work through what all that meant and what it was going to look like. I had an energetic little boy that needed a mommy. This was a time of almost overwhelming pressure and hopelessness. In the midst of this, our local family doctor here in Powhatan, Dr. Bradley called. You have to know that Powhatan was very different in those days. People in the community knew each other. There was one doctor and we all knew him as a friend. He was not Karla’s doctor, she had a pediatrician, but he was ours and he had heard about what we were going through and one evening called to chat and offer his comfort and encouragement. I poured (actually, cried out my heart) to him. He listened and then he said, “Karla needs a nurse, Keith needs a mommy. You and Gene must take care of yourselves and Keith.” That call was God sent. It was words of hope and care and offered the wisdom we needed. The next day we informed the hospital that we could not bring her home. The weight that lifted from our shoulders was huge. We were so grateful for God’s care.

Karla spent three weeks in intensive care at MCV. The bill was $5000.00 total and we did not have insurance. It looked overwhelming to us. Someone “mysterious” paid our funeral expenses and Crippled Children’s Hospital wrote off the bill. I had a friend in Harrisonburg who during revival meeting at her church during this time felt God impress on her heart to give us her quarter collection. It weighed 8 lbs.  It was almost more than we could bear to accept even in our time of need. You see, she was a “widow” living alone because her husband had deserted her on the mission field for another woman and had also turned her four children against her. God taught us humility in receiving in a most precious way.  Before I was married, I had helped them in their move back to the states.

 Gene:

The Sunday Karla died, Pat and I were at the hospital all day and needed to come home to do some chores and touch base with Keith. He had been at the Rancks all day. Art and Phoebe decided to take us back into MCV. We knew Karla was quickly going downhill but when we saw her several hours later we realized Karla was in big trouble and the end was near. We debated and wrestled with whether to stay the night. I needed to be home to milk in the morning and we had a young toddler at home. The hospital insisted we go home that she probably would not die that night. When we got home and walked in the house, Doris, who was here with Keith, was on the phone with MCV and they were telling us to come back. We headed back to Richmond. Just as we passed Flatrock a car came racing up behind us with lights flashing. It was Art. He pulled alongside and flagged us over. As we were going out the lane, MCV had called again. Art brought us the news. Our Karla was gone.

After Karla’s death, we were faced with the difficult decision about future children, remember we wanted four children. There was a 1 in 4 chance on each pregnancy that this could show up again. We decided to take the risk and leave it in God’s hands. We had found His grace to be sufficient and trusted Him with our future. A year later God blessed us with a healthy baby girl, Jill.

Pat:

I dealt with a lot of fear during the pregnancy, at times almost more than I could bear. You see, I analyzed every movement in the womb  and compared to the previous pregnancies even though the movements felt strong. We didn’t know to have that worry with Karla. We didn’t know we had a genetic issue. When Jill was born and the nurse lifted her onto the scales, Gene pronounced her healthy. He said, “There is nothing wrong with this baby.” She was healthy, and we never worried after that.

After a healthy daughter, we decided to try again. Again, it was so hard not to worry, analyze and fear the unknown. When Greg was born, Gene was silent. I noticed. The doctor pronounced him healthy but the next few days I was consumed with fear. I watched and analyzed Greg’s every movement. We just didn’t think there was enough strength in his legs and by the time we left the hospital we were very concerned even though the doctor assured us differently. We struggled…..Was God preparing us for what was ahead or the devil binding us to fear. In the midst of the battle, you can’t tell. Stress and fear became boulders in our path. It was a real battle we were fighting. I put verses in the kitchen window and played uplifting hymns. We prayed. We knew God’s love, experienced His care and trusted His faithfulness.  We had to go through it and no one could walk it for us. But we pulled into ourselves. We could not bring ourselves to share with the church what we were fearing we knew.  The Rancks, Pastor Steve and our families knew but beyond that we chose to suffer in silence.

I remember one Sunday standing in the library doorway out in the hallway with Greg and listening to the lively chatter of visiting people. A feeling of overwhelming loneliness swept over me. Pastor Steve began working with us on how to share it with you, our church family. When Greg was six weeks old we dedicated him to the Lord and then Pastor Steve shared with you, the church. I remember the church gathering around, laying hands and praying for us. I cannot begin to tell you the relief we felt that morning. I cried buckets-all day. My family was also here that Sunday. Now, you knew. The burden was shared. The overwhelming load that crushed us was gone. We had brothers and sisters who loved us and were now standing in the gap for us. Even though the road ahead would be extremely difficult, and it was going to be our personal journey to walk, we had supporters, encouragers to help carry the load.

Gene:

Once again, I found myself asking for grace to survive this journey. We knew what was ahead, but we didn’t know how it would all play out. There were many doctors’ visits and medical decisions. This ordeal was very different from Karla. From the time we knew she was ill it was three weeks and she then was in the hospital. But with Greg, it was nine months of pregnancy plus seven months of living, most of which was at home under our care.

He became very attached to Pat and if someone else tried to hold him or he became stressed, he instantly developed respiratory distress. Four times he stopped breathing and we thought he was gone and too many times to count he went into serious respiratory distress.

Pat:

One time he stopped breathing while I was in the house alone with Keith and Jill. He would get mucus plugs. I yelled out the door for Gene (this was before the time of cell phones) and fortunately Gene was nearby. He immediately came to the house. Greg’s breathing had stopped, his eyes had glassed over and set. There was no pulse. Gene went to the phone to make the call and Greg started spluttering and breathing again. Another time Gene was combining on Rocky Ford Rd. at Watt Flippo’s. Again, I thought I had lost him. I called Doris and said, “He’s gone. I need Ed to go get Gene.” Ed quickly brought Doris over and went to find Gene. Again, he revived.

Another time Dorcas Schaefer took me to the pediatrician’s as it was not safe for me to take Greg by myself. Doris also went along as she had an appointment for Jon Michael who was sick. As we were walking out the door of the doctors after his appointment, Greg coded again. The entire office rushed to my aid and this time the doctors got to see the reality of what we were dealing with.

Several weeks later he ended up in the hospital with pneumonia. At the time, Ed and Doris were going through a lot of medical issues with their baby and they ended up in the same hospital several days before Greg. We had the same pediatrician and he knew we were close friends. When Greg was admitted, we were put on the same floor two doors from the Rancks. Dr. Abernathy went to Doris and said, I was going to let you go home today but can we just keep you here another day? I want you here for Pat. We knew we had a good doctor, but God showed us he had also provided us with a doctor with compassion. While in the hospital he coded again.

I had to learn to tube feed and suction. Remember, I was not a nurse and it is not much fun learning on your own child. When I got home and had to stand in front of my child and actually stick the tube I was holding up his nose and guide it into his stomach and not his lungs was daunting. I could not do it. Betty Hertzler came and help me change his tube. After a few times I did learn to do what I thought I could not do. God gave me strength.

Gene:

I lived with a huge knot in my stomach. There were times when I was physically sick because of the mental stress. There were many times when we put Greg to bed not knowing if he would be alive in the morning. We didn’t know when a mucus plug would be the one that would cause his death.

People cared for us in so many ways. Rosalie came one day just to be with Pat. Many babysat Keith and Jill. One day Bob Hertzler came over when I was plowing and said, “When you can’t go anymore, call me. I know someone who will come and finish. At 11 a.m. Bobbie came.

Another time Ron Moyer, Dave Moyer, Bill Schaefer and Ed Ranck showed up with their tractors and helped me do some field work. Pat’s folks came numerous times to help on the farm and with the children.

Pat:

One day when Greg was about three months old, Six-year old Keith was watching as I dressed Greg. Keith said, “Why does Greg’s chest look like that? Is that why he doesn’t breathe right?” I realized the time had come, Keith had to be told. We were waiting on him to ask questions. I explained that Greg was sick and couldn’t breathe right. Keith asked a lot of questions; would he get better, couldn’t we just push his chest back out with our hands, would he get to be a big man and still not be able to move? I quietly and honestly answered each question. Then he said, “that makes me so sad I could cry”. I told him it made me sad also and hugged him tight as he sobbed and sobbed. Then he had many more questions: Couldn’t the doctors give him a shot to make him better, when will he die, does he have the same thing as Karla, will he (Keith) die, how will Greg get to heaven, will Jesus take him to heaven, can he move in heaven. It was a teachable moment and God gave me the words.

Another time I overheard Keith and Jill playing. Keith made comment of someplace he wanted to go and three-year old Jill said, “we can’t, not until Greg dies.”

Our children were also suffering, hurting and observing. They learned at a tender age that life is not fair. They learned about the fragility of life and the reality of heaven.

 I had a friend who kept pushing God can heal-if we just have enough faith. This is a difficult thing to discern. It became a test of my faith in God. I knew that Greg’s disease was fatal and there were no survivors. I also believed that God can and does heal. It is a difficult spiritual quandary.

One day I laid Greg on the kitchen table and took Keith and Jill with me to the barn to get a gallon of milk. I was gone maybe 5 mins. Now what you need to understand is, Greg was four months old and he could not move. He could not turn his head from side to side when laying on his back. He had never lifted his head or even attempted to roll over. He could not kick his feet. He was basically a floppy rag doll. The table had a vinyl tablecloth on it, so it was not slippery. When I got back to the kitchen, Greg was on the floor, crying and gasping for breath. The chair was pulled out in an angle from the table as if he fell onto the chair first. I picked him up. There were no cuts, bruises or broken bones. The tablecloth us undisturbed. There was no humanly way possible for what just happened to have happened. In that instant, I felt God say to my heart. “Now, can you have that kind of faith in me?” I did. I knew that God could heal and I began praying for a miracle for him to heal my baby, if it was his will. I did not know if God would choose to heal Greg. The important thing was that I had knew he COULD. I do not know how Greg got on the floor, but you will never convince me it was by earthly means.

Gene:

Greg died on a Sunday morning. We knew when we got him up that he was in serious trouble. This time was different. Pat called Dr. Abernathy and asked what we should do. He said, “If you bring him in to the office, I will have to admit him to the hospital. If you want to keep at home, I have calls I need to make at the hospital, but I am available to the phone if you need to talk.” He told us what to expect and talked to us about heaven. We called Pastor Steve and he came over on his way to church. When he saw our situation, he made a quick call to Sam Powell Sr. who was church council chairman and told him to make other arrangements for the service. Sam nabbed Louie Burkholder as he came in the church. Louie was to teach the men’ s class so Wally Schaefer took his place. Louie went into the pastor’s study and by the end of Sunday School came out with a sermon on prophecy and it was said he even went 10 minutes overtime! Around 9:30 a.m. I was holding Greg in the rocking chair when he stopped breathing in my arms.

We were worried that death would be a frantic and scary experience. But as we together held Greg and each other, it was a holy moment. It is a moment when heaven touches earth.

The day after the funeral, the huge knot in my stomach went way.

Pat:

When Pastor Bill asked us to share several weeks ago, our first thought was, this happened 40+ years ago. This past week I pulled out my journal-I had written in it every day. I became totally absorbed in our story almost as if it was a new story. I could not lay it down. Each day I had written of the struggle, questions, fears, and stress. But each day woven like gold threads on a tapestry were verses and testimony of God’s provision, love and care through people.  There was so much I had forgotten but it all came flooding back.  This was our story and it deeply affects who we are today.

There is so much more we could share. So many more stories we could tell.  And although 40 years old, it is a part of our present story. We have never forgotten the faithfulness of God, we still walk in it. We have never forgotten the peace that passes all understanding. We have never forgotten the meaning of “love, support and care” from others. We have never forgotten what it means to stand on our faith in God even when we didn’t know the answers, the going was tough, the next day looked insurmountable and we didn’t know the future. And yet we could trust that it would be ok even if it did not work out like we dreamed or desired. Jude challenges us “to contend earnestly for the faith”. (Jude 3) An enduring faith comes through challenge and severe testing.

Sometimes it pays to look around. Look at what others are dealing with. We discovered we were so grateful we didn’t have to walk some other paths. We found God’s grace was sufficient for what we needed, every day. We found great comfort in knowing our children could only live a year. If we had stage 4 of the disease instead of stage 1 we could have two wheelchairs sitting here in the sanctuary today with two severely handicapped children. Our lives would have been so different. We are so grateful that is not the case.

Through the years God has brought numerous people into our lives that were ours to help, ours to love, ours to stand with in difficult circumstances and ours to comfort through the deaths of their children.

The Worship Team lead a song, “Victory in Jesus”. I love that song. Our victory is in Jesus. It doesn’t matter what you are going through; sickness, marriage tensions, job lost, financial difficulties, depression, disappointments, or infertility. These are all earthly trials and they are real. The struggle and fight are the same. Our earthly struggle is ongoing. We want to close with the words of a song that passionately proclaims the victory in the midst of the fight. I pray that each of you will experience that God is faithful, that Jesus heals our broken spirits, and there is victory in the fight.

 

Does Jesus Care

By Frank E. Graeff

Pat:

Does Jesus care when my heart is pained, too deeply for mirth and song.

As the burdens press, and the cares distress and the way grows weary and long.

Gene:

Does Jesus care when my way is dark with a nameless dread and fear?

As the daylight fades into deep night shades, does He care enough to be near?

Pat:

Does Jesus care when I’ve tried and failed to resist some temptation strong;

When for my deep grief, I find not relief, tho’ my tears flow all the night long?

Gene:

Does Jesus care when I’ve said “good-bye” to the dearest on earth to me,

And my sad heart aches till it nearly breaks-Is it aught to Him? Does He see?

Pat:

Oh, yes, He cares, we know He cares! His heart was touched with our grief.

Gene:

When the days were weary, the long nights dreary,

Together:

We knew our Savior cared.

 

Today…..we are so blessed and grateful for His loving kindness to our family.

 

Gene’s Ordeal

 

It has been a rough, tough summer for Gene. In six weeks time he had four surgery procedures: one shoulder and three for kidney stones.  People are asking how he is doing…..he is now well on the road to recovery and feeling much better. He was even back in the hayfield driving tractor this week.

The beginning of August I wrote about the start of his ordeal in “When Things Pile Up”. For two months he has basically called the lazy boy “his home” (day and night) and his recreation was doctor visits and surgeries. I have teased him about his lineup of prescription bottles.  He could hardly keep them straight. One week he had a medical appointment of some kind every day. He couldn’t drive so I was his “Uber” chauffeur, Meals on Wheels and “Visiting Angels” caregiver. It really wasn’t too difficult but it sure is good to have my good-natured hubby back.

His shoulder is doing well and he can raise his arm above his head. It still aches some and is weak. He is having some issues with his wrist but that seems to be a result of the trauma to the nerve in the shoulder. He wasn’t able to complete his shoulder therapy because of the stone attack and surgeries but he plans to start again to help regain his strength.

His kidney stones turned out to be a bigger deal than the shoulder.  He passed one and a week later was hit with a second stone which he couldn’t pass. He ended up in the ER and was admitted to the hospital. They wanted to do a Lithotripsy (blast the stone) but he had to be transferred to another medical facility to do it but his pain was too severe. They ended up doing surgery to insert a stint. The stint prevented the stone from leaving the kidney until they could do a Lithotripsy. In the meantime, the stone moved in the kidney to a place where they could not see it. They decided to try to retrieve it with a basket. That surgery was not successful.  Finally the stone moved to where it was visible once again on x-ray and they were able to blast that little 5 mm sucker to sand bits. They removed the stint and within a day he was feeling like he was going to be a normal person once again.  He still battles fatigue and is having to pace himself to regain his strength. He was down for a full two months. It is amazing how pain, multiple surgeries and anesthesia sap the strength from the body.

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While Gene was going through this ordeal we were in the process of remodeling our front porch into a sunroom.

Cousin Joe provided great entertainment for him!  I kidded Joe about having to “baby-sit”!!!

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Some days I found him on the patio just looking and watching his cows and the happenings of the day.

 

 

 

When Things Pile Up

This has been a rough six weeks and it is not over yet.

The end of June Gene’s shoulder suddenly got very, very painful. Extreme would be a better description.  He had all the classic symptoms of a torn rotator cuff  but he didn’t know how he had hurt it.  They did a MRI and it showed a tear.

When asked on a scale of 1-10 how bad it hurt, he would say, “15. I have had kidney stones and this is worse.” He had constant excoriating pain with no relief. A week later they did surgery and discovered that instead of a torn rotator cuff, he had calcified tendonitis and bone spurs. The layer of calcium on his tendons was 1′ thick. They had to scrap all the calcium off the tendon and remove the bone spurs. The layers of calcium on the MRI had the illusion of a tear and the symptoms were the same as a torn cuff except the recovery is much quicker and easier.  The surgeon said it was the worse case he has seen.

Recovery. Therapy. Tired. Aching muscles. More recovery. More therapy.

Two weeks ago on Sunday morning he woke up feeling terrible. He had pain in his groin and his back hurt. He thought it was sore muscles from his therapy exercises but the next morning proved him wrong. He passed a kidney stone!

Ten days later (this past Wednesday evening) at 5:30 the ominous pain hit again. Four hours later I was in the ER with a man in terrible pain. He said,  “I take back what I said. I had forgotten how bad kidney stones were.”

Pain. Terrible pain. Horribly miserable. Pain meds. No relief.

To make a long story short, Gene has seven more stones between his two kidneys. They kept him overnight and on Thursday they did surgery to put in a stint to see if it will help him pass the stones. Right now there is a large one causing the problem. If he does not pass it in the next several days they will do a lithotripsy next week to break the stone into smaller pieces.

We are not out of the woods yet with this ordeal.  Gene has to finish getting over the shoulder surgery and therapy and kidney stones all at the same time. We don’t know what kind of trouble the seven little stones will cause. Gene told someone tonight that he is now in the mining business!!!

When things pile up it helps to count your blessings. 100 years ago people died from kidney stones and there would not have been a solution to his shoulder issue.  We are so blessed with modern medicine and we do not want to take it for granted. But more than anything I want to give thanks to our Heavenly Father for allowing us the privilege of benefiting from these blessings.

Actinic Keratosis – Part III

To read….. Actinic Keratosis Part I (Days 1-15) and Part II. (Days 16-18).

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This is the final post on this series……

Day 21 (Three weeks): It is now 1 week since he stopped the Fluorouracil Cream treatment and today he felt really good.  Each day his face is looking better.  He still has a few areas that are  peeling but all the angry redness is gone. His face is still red but it looks more like he just got a good dose of sun.  He there are also a few sore spots but they are not bad.  The sorest areas are on the top of  his forehead just below the hair line and over the cheek bones. The burning sensation is gone. He put lotion on this morning but did not reapply during the day. He was also able to use sunscreen today.

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He has a few little “whiteish” spots (two above his left eye and one above his left ear)  and “darker” spots (at the edge of his right eye, in front of his ear and on his cheek). It will be interesting to see what happens to them.

Day 24:  Today he was comfortable going out in public again and went to church.  Except for a few small flakes of skin peeling and a few other spots that aren’t quite healed,  Gene’s face is looking good.  If you didn’t know he had the treatment you would just think he got a little too much sun on his face.  He is almost healed and every day is an improvement. Hopefully when he goes back for a checkup in six months he will be given a “clean” bill of health and not have to do the treatment again.

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Actinic Keratosis – Part II

To read… Actinic Keratosis – Part 1  (Days 1-15 of treatment)

Day 16:  And just when I thought he couldn’t look any worse….over night he does! He tries to stay out of the store as much as possible but it can not be totally avoided.  He is not embarrassed by how he looks but feels like he is a white elephant in the room. His approach has been to just tell people what is going on and that will usually opens a good, sympathetic, “I feel your pain” conversation.   Some people will ask what is going on, some will look and not ask, and some will ask me!  He is so ready to feel like he is over the hump and on the downhill side of the mountain he has climbed.  It is amazing to discover how many people have had this treatment or know someone who has.

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We are amazed at how these pictures make his face look better than it really is. I can’t capture the deep, purple-red, puffiness!  And all these years I thought camera made me look worse than I thought I looked!!!  How ironic!

His face really hurts today and it is making him feel bad.  He can not stand any ointment or lotion that has alcohol in it.  The pharmacy does not have any sunscreen lotion here in March and he can not stand to be outside even if the sun is not directly shining on his face.  He is suppose to protect his face from sun with sunscreen even in a vehicle and wear a wide brim hat.

Day 17:  Today was a rough day and Gene did not feel well at all.  His face was puffy and hurts; there just was not much relief.  It was good that today was Sunday and there was no work pressure. He was able to lay on the sofa and take it easy.

Day 18: He feels like he is finally over the hump!  He had a good night’s rest and woke up without a headache. Some of the angry redness seems to be lessening.  One of his big challenges has been what to put on his face for relief.  The skin feels tight and brittle.  It is basically like a terrible sunburn. A & D Ointment has worked the best. Neosporin has helped but it makes him look like a greased pig.  Everything else seems to set his face on fire. Most lotions and ointments have alcohol in them. Because of the “heat” in his face the ointments tend to melt off his face and he has to continually dap up the grease!

Today a display of “The Naked Bee” supplies that he ordered at a recent Purina expo came into our store.  It is an assortment of hand and body moisturizing lotions,  chap stick, soap, and salve made from Orange Blossom honey. He decided to try the lotion on his face. It was almost instant relief to his face with non of the greasiness, residue or burning of other lotions.  By the end of the day his face was even looking a tiny bit better.  He is now starting to peel, but this is good. It means the damage skin is starting to slough away and  I am seeing glimpses of ‘pink” skin underneath!!!

Now for a commercial on The Naked Bee.  And the good part…we sell it in the store!!!

Naked Bee Lotion

On the product it says…”All the good stuff” (70% Certified Organic).  It has a mild but pleasant, citrus smell. In reading the below list it is easy to see why this is working!

  • Organic Aloe and Sunflower Oil helps restore, heal, promote healthy skin.
  • Green & White Tea extracts protect skin from oxidative stress.
  • Honey is antibacterial, moisturizing and nutritive for all skin types.
  • Hyaluronic acid, a powerful hydrator that smoothes and softens skin.
  • Spirulina, concentrated nutrients for skin conditioning and detoxification.
  • Ph balanced, Hypoallergenic and non-comedogenic.

“None of the bad stuff”

  • Paraben-free.
  • No propylene glycol.
  • Gluten-free.
  • No drying alcohol.
  • No dyes or pigments.
  • No mineral oil.
  • No EDTA.
  • Phthalate-free fragrance.

Part III: Days 21-24

Actinic Keratosis – Part I

Actinic keratosis  (AK)  is a precancerous skin growth that happens on sun-damaged areas of the skin.

Gene is a farmer and has basically spent his life outdoors working and playing softball. He always wears a hat and most of his farm work is done from the cab of his tractor. But that has not protected him enough from the sun’s rays and through the years has caused red blotching on the side of his face (see the picture below).  It had gotten worse and he had developed some slightly crusty areas. Finally the family doctor recommended that he see a dermatologist.

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  Years of sunlight (UV) exposure damages skin and causes it to grow abnormally. Patches on skin pale or redden causing a mottled appearance. Then rough, scaly, or crusted areas develop. These areas are usually pink, but can be gray. Sometimes a small horn of fingernail-like material grows.   This is often due occupational sun exposure or sun-bathing.

The lesions are benign (noncancerous) but they can occasionally convert to squamous cell skin cancer.  If this happens it must be surgically removed. Patients that  have many lesions have a higher chance of skin cancer.

AK may remain unchanged, spontaneously resolve, or progress to skin cancer. The fate of any one AK is impossible to predict.    People with sun-damaged skin should see a doctor at regular intervals.

This information was taken from http://www.lifescript.com/health/centers/cancer/alternative_treatments/actinic_keratosis.aspx

Fortunately for Gene, they are not seeing any cancer but they decided he needed to do preventive treatment to his face with Fluorouracil Cream which is a chemo drug.  The dermatologist also “froze” some spots on his ears and face. We knew several people who have taken this treatment and heard their stories about how “bad” their faces looked. Now he has his own story.

Gene is allowing me to photograph and write about his experience so that it can help or educate others.  He has found other people’s personal blogs and utube posts to be very helpful. The doctors give you medical expertise but people tell you personal experiences.

Two weeks ago he started the Fluorouracil Cream treatment. Twice a day he had to put the cream on his face and ears.  This was a bigger ordeal than it first sounds.  He would take a shower and shave. Then he had to wait half an hour before putting the cream on. He feels like it is taking him a long time to “primp”, especially in the mornings. It took about a week before the skin reaction started showing.  Each day his face has become more blotchy and red.

Day 11: I decided I should take a picture….

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His face is starting to hurt.  The skin feels tight and tingly. He said it feels like there are needles pushing into his skin.  He can not stand for the pillow to touch his face. He didn’t go to church on Sunday as it looks bad enough you don’t want to be in a group of people-you try to avoid people!

Day 14: Two weeks and each day it is getting worse and worse.  It is really bothering him and hurting. The corners of his mouth hurt and feel sore. The skin feels tight and hot.  He is having headaches and trouble sleeping.  He had a two-week appointment with the dermatologist today and he was anxious to go.  She gave him some options going forward but decided to stop the cream treatment and see how it looks in six months when she will reevaluate. He may have to do it again or take the “blue light” treatment. Going forward he is suppose to wear sunblock lotion every day-even cloudy days as there are still ultraviolet rays coming through the clouds and wear a wide brim hat.  He asked her on a scale of 1-10 how bad he looked.  She said a 6.  She showed him a picture of a guy who looked a lot worse.

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Day 15:   Gene is plain miserable. He felt terrible last night and had trouble sleeping.  He finally got up and dug around in the medicine cabinet during the night and found some pain pills. He also put some Neosporin on which gave him some relief.  Now in addition to being deep red he looks like a greased pig!  His face hurts.  The skin is tight,  slightly swollen, deep, fiery red and painful.  He says he looks like he has been lost on the ocean on a raft for two weeks with no shade protection!  I went to the pharmacy today and got him some A & D first aid ointment and Caldyphen Clear Lotion for pain relief.  The Caldyphen Lotion did not help as it set his face on fire.

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These pictures soften how bad it really looks in “real life”!  Needless to say he doesn’t like to be out in public any more than he has too!

Two of the men from church came by today to see him. They could sympathize as they have had to do the same treatment.  Both were rather shocked at how bad he looked. They thought they had looked bad but both said they were not this bad!!  At this point you cling to the promise that there is hope at the end of this ordeal. He will have a new face and everyone says his face will be good-looking again with nice skin-better than what he had.  He is blessed. He does not have cancer and he does not have to have areas surgically repaired.

Actinic Keratosis-Part II  (Day 16-18) and Part III (Day 21-24)

 

 

My Feet Hurt

If any part of my body hurts it is usually my feet. From time to time, my feet give me a fit.  Sometime it is a corn on the side of my foot, or  a sore spot on the ball of my foot.  Most of the time it is just tired, sore feet. Now it is my heel. For years I have had to wear “granny shoes” and only admire the stylish ones other gals wear. However, I must say, I am so grateful to SAS for making comfortable shoes for folks like me.

About three weeks ago  on a Sunday afternoon in the matter of a few hours I developed a pain in my left heel that left me limping and hopping in pain; excruciating, piercing pain.  And this was just after a vacation where we mostly rode and I was on my feet a minimal amount of time. I should have been rested and refreshed.  I figured I had somehow bruised it but didn’t have a clue how.

Finally after about a week of almost unbearable pain, I  hobbled to Dr. Earnest, a customer who is a podiatrist.  He confirmed what I was beginning to figure out. I had plantar fasciitis.   Let me tell you, this is not a fun ailment!  I have been limping and hobbling like a crippled old woman!!!!  My toes are even sore from walking on them.  One evening Gene asked me if I needed a walker. It wouldn’t have done any good as both feet were hurting so bad I could barely put weight on either one.  Try walking to bed on no feet! The “good”  foot was reacting from protecting my hurting foot. I have also found that there is a “club” of other fellow sufferers!

Finally I am now into a “healing” regime.  I am learning about stretching the plantar ligament  and reducing swelling with ice. Today I got my “air boot”; a stylish, cushiony, navy-blue cam-walker with an air pump designed to keep my foot straight so the ligament can heal without being constantly re-torn every time I get up in the morning after a night of healing and rest.  The fun part is learning to rock this baby from heel to toe as I walk.

This lovely, clunky, $157 boot is now my best friend and will go everywhere I go for the next month or so.   Without this boot I won’t heal.

In about a week I will get my orthodics designed to fit into my shoes and adjust my step.  The doctor said I will even have to wear the orthodic in my boot! Oh, me!!!   I know, it can be worse and I am grateful it is “healable” with proper care.  Two weeks ago I told the doctor I was ready to cut off my foot!

By the way fasciitis has one of the strangest spellings for a word.  I believe someone said it is the only word with 2 ii’s in a row. (I don’t know for sure if this is a fact).  I think I know why…your feet hurt so bad all you can think of is i…i…i!

My progress…at one month into this ordeal!

I am doing so much better but I am not totally healed yet!  Fellow sufferers have told me I will get there and I think I am starting to believe them!!!

I am learning two things:

  • There is no instant “fix” or cure!
  • It is essential that I do my foot stretching exercises.

I will share with you what I am doing, besides using the cam-walker, just in case you are suffering and need some help. I must say I am NOT a doctor or a nurse.  If you are suffering, please see a doctor and let them help you.  I’ve had people tell me that suffered for months or years before getting professional help. This is just my journey…..

The doc initially wrapped my foot in 2″ wide brown medical tape.  He said the tape was available at the drugstore but our drugstore does not have it so I used 2″ wide white adhesive tape from the our feed store that is used for taping horses legs. That worked for several weeks and then it pulled some skin off the bottom of my foot and I had to stop.

Here is how you tape.

Cut some short pieces of tape-maybe 5″ long and put around the bottom of your foot as shown below, going all the way to the heel keeping your foot relaxed. Do not pull tape tight. Just put it on naturally and relaxed.

Cut another piece 3-4 inches long and lay on top of your foot with sticky side up.

This will keep the next step of taping from sticking to the sensitive top of your foot.

Take a longer piece of tape and lay it on top of the sticky side up tape and wrap it around the bottom of your foot.

This helps to hold the arch ligaments in place.

Then cut a long piece of tape 12-14″ and wrap it around the foot starting near the toes, go around the heel and up the other side.

You have now made yourself a taped sock! It will feel good and it is amazing the support it gives.

You either have to keep your foot dry when you take a shower or remove it every evening (like I did) and redo in the morning. I was glad to have it off my foot at night.

I got a “night” brace at the drug store to wear at night. It is soft and keeps your foot from getting turned in funny positions during the night. It also holds the toes slightly pointed back towards your body. This also feels really, really good. You can not walk in it and if you have to get up during the night you have to slip it off and remember-stretch those toes before hitting the floor!

The other absolutely essential part of getting better is the foot stretches. The doc tells you this, the people where I got my cam-walker said it and fellow sufferers have verified the need for doing them.

Foot Stretches-there are numerous ones, but I will tell you about the ones I am doing.

  • First thing in the morning-before your foot hits the floor- bend your toes back towards your body. You can feel the ligament in the heel pull.  Bend your toes back and hold several seconds, repeat several times. If I do not do this one I have ruin my whole day. Your foot ligaments heal and stiffen during the night. You have to release that ligament or you will have shooting pain and feel like you are walking on a ball.  You have just undone the healing that took place during the night. Numerous times during the day I will flex my toes back as far as I can back towards my body. (You can use a towel to pull your toes back if you are too stiff to do it).
  • Put your hands against the wall-I put one on each side of the door jam and set my feet back about 3 feet.  Keep the foot straight with the heel on the ground and bend knee of the good leg. You will feel the muscles in the calf of your leg pull. Hold for 1-2 minutes, release and repeat several times.
  • On a step, bring your toes on both feet as close to the edge as possible. Drop your heel slightly and hold. Again you will feel the ligament pull.  I learned a hard lesson on this one-I dropped my heel to far and messed myself up for a day or so.  The first time only drop the heel for 5 seconds. Each time add 5 seconds. Someone told me a 2by4 works good. You can’t overdrop your foot with it.

I am still waiting on my orthodic and can hardly wait until it comes in. At this point my heel is not hurting me unless I am on it too much and I can now walk without pain. Yea!  This is a big deal and I am so grateful to my Heavenly Father. I have been talking to Him about it also.

This weekend I put my regular shoe on and cleaned the house. My foot got tired but I still had no heal pain.  This was the first time I cleaned since this ordeal began. I simply had too much pain in my heel to be on my feet.  I am still dealing with some general foot discomfort due to the cam-walker rubbing my little toe, my arch hurting, my shin getting use to the cam-walker, or my other foot hurting because of favoring my sore foot.  I have talked to people who have suffered for months and years before getting better. I am making progress and I am seeing results!  I am a long ways from where I was at a month ago. I have not needed a cortisone shot-at least not at this stage which is another option to help in the process.

September 9: It is not over two months and I am totally pain-free. Praise the Lord.  I still need to stretch my foot before I get up in the mornings but I am adjusted to my orthodics and no longer think about my feet all day long and every step I take.

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