November 2, 2005

The Rest of the Story

As I sat in a high tech exam room in the Orthopedic Clinic of the UW hospital in July, I can remember trying to catch my breath from the blow that felt like it had been physically dealt to me by this quiet surgeon. I'd waited almost 4 hours for him to come in and give me his verdict on my case. His PA was in the room also, a young woman who reminded me a lot of my oldest sister. She was very good with eye contact, something I'd noticed immediately, but at this point, I was looking anywhere but her eyes. The doctor was finishing up his little speech, his eyes glued to the x-rays on the light board over my left shoulder. I just stared at the travel magazine on the rack over his head, blinking and swallowing rapidly, trying to stop my eyes from filling up.

After reviewing my pre-op x-rays and looking at the series that were made that morning, he came to the conclusion that almost everything I've done to deal with this issue had been more harmful than helpful. He thought I should have never had the surgery I had...that it fixed what seemed to be an obvious problem, when in fact, it wasn't ever the cause of the pain. Not only had the surgery been wrong, but the cortisone shots (7 over a 2 year span) were widely discouraged by most doctors, especially on such a small joint. I should have never had one...let alone 7 injected. I had lost a lot of flexibility in the joint because of the surgery and had a great deal of scar tissue from the surgery and shots.

And to top it all if that wasn't bad enough news...he had no clue where the pain was coming from or what to do about it.
That was the physical blow part.

He sent me for an MRI the next week, and thus began the chapter of this story that I am in now. But that day...walking out of that clinic without dissolving into tears was so incredibly hard. I made it all the way to the parking garage before they came. I had called my mom, and as I started to talk, I lost it. It was so much worse than anything I was expecting to hear from this appointment. I couldn't believe it. All of that for nothing.

Well, fast forward a month. The MRI didn't reveal too much...the screw had caused too much disturbance. It did show some inflammation around a bone on the bottom of my foot, but they weren't certain that meant anything. Their advice was to take the screw out. Sometimes they can cause post-op pain, and it's a simple procedure. So that's what we did. Only, I had to come home to do it. And that fact right there has been my undoing.

I've been home for 2 months now, I found a new doctor...again, and they took the screw out at the end of September. And tomorrow, I am going back to the doctor with the news that it didn't change anything.

I cannot begin to adequately convey my frustration with this situation. It would be one thing if I were dealing with all of this while I was working or in school. But that's not the case. I am at home, just waiting for this to be resolved. Due to the joys of health insurance, I can't work full time nor can I change companies. Basically, I am stuck pulling part time shifts, living with my parents, and I am still dealing with the same amount of pain. Every. Day.

And I'm about to go completely insane. This was not supposed to happen. I wasn't supposed to still be here. I had a job offer, at a place I love. I had a career picked least temporarily. I had the yearnings to travel again and seriously contemplated moving to Italy after Christmas. I had all these possibilities in front of me...all I had to do was come home to deal with my foot for a month and then I could get back to deciding my future.

It would be easier to deal with if I knew what I was up against. But now, with the screw out and no change, this has turned into something I don't really know how to deal with. I finally got an appointment at Mayo, for the 22nd. So, if my TN doctor can't figure out a course of action tomorrow, then I have to wait 3 more weeks before I can get any other answers.

Part of me just wants someone to tell me that they can't do anything about it. That it will just be a chronic pain issue, and to buy some SAS orthopedic shoes and deal. That way, I could at least make a decision about what I'm going to do next. But this hopping from one doctor to another, hoping that someone will fix this just leaves me hanging.

I wish I could tell you that I've used these last 2 months of unexpected vacation to do great productive things. I wish that I'd made a difference in the world by donating all my free time to charities and helping people. Instead I've become a master of filling up days with nothingness. For so long, I just thought all I had to do was get past the surgery, and then I could go and join the human race again. But in the past month, as it became more and more evident that it hadn't fixed anything...I just went to a really dark place, where watching The West Wing and drinking a lot of Diet Coke seemed like the best use of my time.

It's just so disappointing. All of it. The situation and how I've reacted to it.

Maybe tomorrow will bring more answers. It's more likely to bring more frustrations and tears, but I have to hope that it will be more than that. It's all that I have to get me through this.

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