Banner photo of Larry Eugene Meredith, Ronald Tipton and Patrick Flynn, 2017.

The good times are memories
In the drinking of elder men...

-- Larry E.
Time II

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Doctors Doctoring

Now that I established I was old and fine with that in my last post, I will write a companion piece about being old. The companions are apparently doctors.

I did pretty well health-wise during my life, but lately the engine light is coming on more often. I have always avoided doctors and their ilk, and especially such nasties as blood tests, because they like to stick you with needles. I haven't been in a hospital since I was ten, except to visit some other unfortunate, but I don't like hospitals either, as a patient or visitor.

Oh, I've had my occasions with the medical professionals. When I was 22 or thereabouts I was sent home an hour early from work because the staff doctor could not detect any heartbeat. He didn't want me traveling in the rush hour. I guess he thought it was unwise to have the undead wandering about in the subway.

Between then and now I was fairly safe from doctors. I just didn't get sick much  and when I did I tended to ignore it as much a possible and keep on keeping on. Oh, now and again I visited a dermatologist because of my psoriasis, which I have written about before and probably will again because of its comic overtones, but not here.

I had a bad patch back in the early to mid-1990s that forced me into the clutches of several medical practitioners. I took my children swimming in our community pool one Saturday and standing in the water I was hit with a horribly painful muscle cramp. It wasn't in my legs where I usually experience such things. It was in my ribcage. I struggled out of the pool fearful I was having a heart attack until it went away. After that I began to have regular cramps hitting me everywhere, my legs, my arms, my chest and even my neck. It was quite annoying.

Then one day I walked out of my office at Wilmington Trust, did a little semi-circle and walked smack into the wall. How odd! I was also experiencing double vision. When I looked at TV I saw two sets, one slightly atop the other. I went to the eye doctor and he said my eyes were fine, but double vision could indicate some underlying problem elsewhere in the body.

I went to my doctor and was passed off to a nephrologist. That worried me because he was a kidney guy and I didn't want kidney failure. He had me take a bunch of tests and scans and thumpings and proddings and said, "You have hypothyroidism. Take this little pill every day and you'll be fine." (Do I hear Jefferson Airplane playing "White Rabbit" in the background?)

And indeed I was for about a year and then I kept waking up with what felt like sand in my eyes. It scratched and hurt, and worst when I walked outside into the sunlight the beams stabbed my eyes like knife thrusts. The pain was excruciating.  I was driving I-95 to work with one eye closed and my hand over the other, peeking between the fingers.

Back to the doctor, who ran blood tests and then called me up one evening and said, "You better come see me. Your blood tests make no sense." Just what you want to hear your doctor say. When I visited he showed me the tests and said he didn't know what the heck was going on. This led to more tests and finally to an Endocrinologist. (Gee, the titles are getting longer.) I had done a rare thing, flipped from hypo to hyperthyroidism. At any rate they eventually killed my thyroid, drove a stake through its heart, steroided me, radiated me, iodized me, and sent me home more or less cured.

And from 1995 until last year I was doing great. I was seldom ever sick, and never seriously so. I had off and on arthritis attacks, mainly in my feet, but I bore the pain and did what I was called upon to do at home or work. I got a lot of perfect attendance awards at Wilmington Trust. I felt invincible.

But age and Doctors caught up to me.

It started with the beginning of last year. Both my wife and I were sick that January 2012. I hadn't been
ill like that in a couple of decades. It held on, too. Happy New Year! The bug went away eventually, but before I was fully on my feet my leg was kicked out from under me. I guess it was bursitis. Whatever, my knee swelled up and appeared to have a grapefruit implanted within and boy, did it hurt. I could barely hobble or get in my car. Driving was a horror, because I couldn't bend my leg and the pain was extra sharp cramped between seat and pedals. Obviously my morning walks had disappeared throughout January and February.

By mid-March I was finally back walking and things were becoming normal, but when April came I was called up home because my mom had a stroke. Most of the remainder of 2012 was taken up with getting proper healthcare for my parents through to their deaths and then dealing with the funerals and the aftermath of settling the estate. I looked to 2013 to bring some relief.

But this year started much as 2012 did, with both my wife and I ill with something like the flu. This hung on, seemed to go away and returned again. Then in March I was hit with an especially vicious arthritis attack in my left wrist. I had never had an attack in my wrists before. It usually attacked my feet, specially my toes. Arthritis attacks normally lasted a few days, then went away for a while. This wrist attack would not let go. It went on for two weeks and the pain was intense enough that I began popping aspirin for relief. I am not big on medication. I always took as little as possible and I only took pain relievers when the pain got extremely unbearable.  After the two weeks the arthritis lessened, although to this day my wrist aches if I turn it too far in any direction.

Note that up until now I still avoided doctors. I was on some medications as it was, I didn't want more. I have to take a pill to replace my thyroid hormone. I also have been on two high blood pressure piles for a decade of so now. I take them in the evening. That's all I wanted.

But right after the wrist got better I felt I was getting sick again. I had a pain in my midsection. I feared it was a stomach flu, oh joy. It eased up and on the Thursday before Palm Sunday we went out to dinner at Dead Presidents in Wilmington.  When we got home I went to the bathroom to urinate and as I stood I felt woozy. I thought I would faint. I had to lie down on the bathroom floor for a bit. I attributed it to the drinks I had with dinner.

On Friday and Saturday I was okay, but after church on Sunday I felt very tired. I plopped down on the sofa and fell asleep. When I awoke I got up, but after a few steps had to sit down on something. I couldn't walk but a short distance without being faint. I assumed I did have the flu after all, but next morning I had to rush to the bathroom right after awakening, not to urinate as was usual, but the other. I had a ghastly bout of diarrhea (dratted flu). I stood up very wobbly and looked down and saw what was there was black.  I knew what that meant, something was bleeding inside somewhere and it could mean cancer.

Now the doctors were going to get there clutches upon me. My family physician examined me and ordered an emergency colonoscopy and stat blood work. If the blood work came back that afternoon showing my hemoglobin was low she was going to put me right in the hospital. Fortunately, though it was low, it wasn't that low and I was able to remain home and make the Easter Sunrise service that week. The next Thursday I was off to doctor number two (no pun intended) for the colonoscopy and an endoscopy.

I had a bleeding ulcer, but otherwise was clean, nothing cancerous threatening. At the end of the month on follow-up the gastrologist gave me the okay to eat whatever I wished. He had also done something that closed up that bleeding ulcer while he was in there. He did put me on another medication, Prilosec.

I was happy with this result, but three days after that meeting, as we entered the merry month of May, I was hit with another vicious arthritis assault. This time it was to the middle finger of my right hand. It was awful and as it entered the second week it spread into my index finger. I also noticed that my index finger had become rigid and this scared me. If this could happen here, it could happen anywhere to any joint. Back to my family physician, who sent me for blood work again and an X-ray of my right hand. Results of this was a visit to doctor number three, a Rheumatologist.

The doctors have me now. I have two more medications. One is very powerful with many frightening and dangers possible side-effects, like death. It is the same medication they give cancer suffers as chemotherapy. The second medication is Folic Acid because the other depletes that in your body and your cells need it to stay healthy. This medication also suppresses the immune system, so I am now more prey to infections and disease than ever.

Because this medication is also a threat to liver health I must have a blood test every four weeks. I visit the doctor every six weeks. The doctors have won, they have me for life!

My medications look like those decals on the rear windows of cars, you know, the ones that show daddy and mommy and each little tyke and maybe the family pets all lined across the glass.

Doctors, medications, blood tests, oh my, I'd rather face lions and tigers and bears.

So there I am with my good buddy, whose somewhat worse off than I, waiting in the doctors office this morning for my latest six week check in. My blood pressure was 120/72 and my blood test results were all fine, but my middle finger on my right hand has grown as paralyzed as the index finger recently, so he upped my medication dosage and I must go get another x-ray of my hand (actually both hands this time). Welcome to the side issues of age, Larry.

Maybe I should write about my visits to dermatologists again. At least that is humorous and involves nudity, always a popular subject.

1 comment:

Practical Parsimony said...

I, too, have resisted medication. So far, at age 67, I only have two--premarin and levothyroxine. I hate medications!

Your January is like my October. About twenty years ago, I was as so sick and for the whole month of October. Since then, I have had several sickly Octobers, so now, I am proactive and try to stop these horrendous head and chest "episodes" before they start.

It seems from your story, I could still be in for more medicated days.