"Happiness is a Choice." quote taken from an interview of Drew Barrymore by Kevin Sessums

Friday, July 16, 2010

Meeting Elizabeth

I arrive to meet my pain management doctor for our initial evaluation on December 8, 2009. I arrive alone which might seem odd to some but I have noticed that on the rare occasions that Michael and I go to see a doctor together, I am much more wrapped up in Michael’s reactions and demeanor. Today my focus needs to be only on me.

When I go inside, I am given a series of papers to complete by the delightful and sweet assistant named Heather who booked this appointment almost a month ago. I am surprised (and relieved) that there is a four-sided picture of the human body for me to mark my areas of pain. No one has ever asked me before if anything else hurts besides my left foot, ankle and lower leg and by the time I am done with my medical “artwork,” I am dismayed by the mess I’ve just made on the page. I give Heather all my paperwork and wait for my name to be called.

In no time at all, Tiffany calls me back and after asking me a few questions, I am left alone in a rather small room that is very clinical yet intimate. Tiffany returns and I meet Elizabeth.

Elizabeth? Yes, that’s what I call her. I use her “proper title” on occasion when discussing her specifically to others, but when you have literally poured your life story to someone and cried off and on while telling it, you drop the formalities.

So who is Elizabeth? She is a pain management specialist who is blonde, petite, 30ish and a human energizer bunny. And honestly, I mean this in the most complimentary, sweetest way possible. It is clear that she is intelligent, sweet, kind and puzzled by my case immediately. She is very concerned that my pain has migrated to other areas of my body, particularly my low back, hands, wrists, elbows and shoulder blades. She sees the Aircast on my left foot and the crutches and asks if I have a walker. Ironically I do because I purchased one for my mom to use when visiting us in TX. I hand her the MRI CD and she quickly looks at it while looking at the other notes from the foot surgeon. While doing a brief physical exam, she notes that I don’t complain of fever chills or unintentional weight loss (in fact, just the opposite), no shortness of breath or chest pain, no cough, no loss of urine or bowel function, no rashes, no reported memory loss, no hot or cold intolerance (except for ice on my left foot), no anemia or enlarged lymph nodes and no hay fever complaints.

She does see, however, that I’ve fallen into an emotional pothole and so far haven’t been able to climb out of it. I report muscle spasms and stiffness from my left hip to my left foot. The skin on my left foot has a grayish look about it……pre-morgue. I have nail changes on the same foot. This foot and ankle are still swollen. Both feet now sweat profusely, even when cold. My hands sometimes fall asleep for no apparent reason. There is no doubt that I am depressed, not sleeping and full of anxiety. In other words, I’m a hot mess. She is incredibly unhappy that the only medication I’m taking is the Lisinopril and the occasional Aleve because the Cymbalta, Elavil and Lyrica all made me so loopy that I was afraid to drive. She is concerned about my weight and we (half-jokingly) talk about how a breast reduction surgery (I’m a DD) would do me a world of good, but she states that we will address these matters later. Her goal today is to lower my pain level and depression. She wants to perform a nerve block at L3 and I agree to it, thinking at this point I have nothing to lose. As I lay on my stomach for the procedure, I apologize as both hands fall asleep and I need to shake them to stop the tingling and the sweat from my feet is now dripping on the floor. None of this fazes her and she tells me how brave I am and how well the procedure is going. I grab that “brave” comment like it is gold and promise myself to tell my inner she-demon that I am brave, no matter what that bitch says.

Upon leaving, Elizabeth gives me prescriptions for Prozac, Klonopin and Neurontin and gives me samples of Ultram to see if I can tolerate it. She orders an MRI of my back, thinking there are indeed other pain factors that are driving this RSD train. She tells me that the blocks only work best within the first six months of the pain. She is concerned, however, that I have been suffering various kinds of pain prior to the foot injury but that I have just excused it as other things (poor mattress, weight gain, running after two young boys, stress, previous work situations, aging, etc.). She has hope, however, that she will get to the bottom of anything and everything that is wrong with me and asks me to see her within 7-10 days. I make my return appointment and leave with a bit of optimism. There are several things that I know: I definitely have RSD, my drug “regimen” is about to begin, I have a new doctor who I like and who LISTENS to me and I need to dust off Mom’s walker. Yet despite this “progress,” I still worry…..am I too late to stop RSD from taking over my life?

1 comment:

  1. I have found that because a lot of doctors don't know what the best course of treatment to be, that over time I have felt like a guinea pig... What is your take on this?