Sep 3, 2010

It's Baaaa-aaack

I have never been the perfect picture of health.  In addition to my huge bulk (which I'm doing my best to shed - read all about it HERE!), I have pretty cruddy joints.  And I'm a big huge klutz.  This has caused many injuries over the years.  Right before I started fifth grade, I was running through the house to get to the tv room so I could watch National Geographic Explorer.  (So, my nerdiness should not be a surprise at this point.)  I tripped on the floor, hurting my toe very badly.  It swelled up something awful and I had trouble walking by the next morning.  (This led to the horrifying image of my dad trying to carry me and nearly dropping me down the stairs.)  My parents took me to the Emergency Room and they went through the normal rigamarole.  I told them I was running through the house and tripped.  We assumed the toe was broken.  The waiting room, the forms, the nurse.  Same story multiple times.  XRay tech - same thing.  Finally the doctor came in.

  • DOCTOR: "What happened?" 
  • ME: "I was running through the house and tripped.  I think I broke my toe."
  • DOCTOR: "I'm a little confused..."
  • ME: "About what?  I was running, I tripped, my toe is broken."
  • DOCTOR: "No, I get that.  How did you break your heel?"
  • ME: "Uh, what?!?"
  • DOCTOR: "Yeah - your heel is broken.  See on the XRay?  There is a break across the heel."
  • ME: "I got nothing."
We never did figure that out.  I started fifth grade at my new school with a cast.  This then led to my next set of injuries.  My arches were so bad and my ankles so weak - made worse by the cast - that I started spraining my ankles on a regular basis.  I would be walking along, heading over the gifted classes in the annex.  Next thing I know, my ankle would twist under me and WHAM - on the ground.  

In sixth grade, I was in P.E. and we were playing soccer.  Some kid kicked at the ball and missed it.  But his cleat clad shoe found dead aim right into my knee.  He hit the leg bone, right below the kneecap.  The doctor thought it was broken, but then said it was just a bone bruise.  That year I also got tripped playing basketball and fell.  I had a tooth that grew weird out of the front of my gum instead of the normal tooth spot - almost like a fang.  When I fell, that tooth jammed into my lip and shredded it.  It also knocked the tooth off kilter, which led me to cut my mouth repeatedly.  Finally they had to take the tooth out.  As if that wasn't enough, I hurt myself again in P.E. during track and field week.  I was practicing the high jump - something that shockingly I was good at.  One jump I fell weird and landed on my hand, hyperextending all my fingers.  

In seventh grade, while playing soccer with my sister in the back yard, I had one of my worst injuries.  I was thrashing her like she was North Korea.  Trying to be nice, she pointed out to me that there was a big hole in the yard.  Being a punk, I didn't listen.  I even mocked her.  I knew the hole was there - after all I was the one who had to pick up the dog poop.  I knew every inch of that yard.  So when she said it, I came running up with the ball, planning to be funny.  I said, "What hole?  This one?"  I planned on stepping in it, and when she watched me I would kick the ball with the other foot and score - again.  Instead my knee hyperextended and I tore my meniscus.  This led to my first knee surgery - arthroscopy at the age of 12.  

This continued through the years.  And my siblings were more than happy to help with it.  I ripped the cartilage in my nose on my brother's chest playing basketball.  He slammed an iron pipe onto my toe, severing the nerves, trying to set up a tennis net.  I got a piece of tar paper in my eye when a basketball hit one of the window awnings.  That time it scratched my retina.  In tenth grade, I was pretending to be Michael Jordan in the bathroom after my shower.  I was flying in for a massive windmill dunk when my hand hit the broken lamp over the mirror.  It flayed my hand.  The skin flipped back and I could actually see my vein.  Another E.R. trip.  A year later, I blew my knee out again playing racquetball on a public park court that had been recently whitewashed.  I went one way and my leg went the other.  That gave me my second knee surgery in 11th grade.  In college, I sprained my ankle so badly that I had to go to the E.R.  Even the doctor was surprised it wasn't broken.  I was on crutches for two weeks for that one.  

Getting married and having kids didn't help either.  I was climbing on a bookcase to get something in the garage.  The bookcase didn't hold me and I fell right through.  The screws ripped slices into my ankle and side.  Two days later I fell in a parking lot and shredded my legs.  At a church I worked at, I fell down a wet set of stairs.  I sprained my left ankle and right knee.  They put me on crutches for that.  I honestly didn't know which leg to use - they both were so bad.  My ankles have become so bad that I can sprain and dislocate them sitting on the floor - if I wanted to.  (I don't want to, but it just happens.)  

I also had a bizarre condition that manifested itself in college.  I had Keinbach's disease in my left wrist.  I was having unbelievable pain and weakness in that arm.  No one knew what it was - thinking it was carpal tunnel or bad tendinitis.  (Although I do have carpal tunnel - that wasn't it.)  A hand specialist realized I had Keinbach's - which is where the radius bone in an arm is too long.  It puts too much torque and pressure on the wrist bones. The end result is that blood supply is cut off to the middle wrist bone, killing it.  If you saw an XRay of my wrist, you would see a bright white triangle where that bone is.  The doctor had to perform surgery - cutting my arm bone and removing a slice of bone and then putting in a metal plate.  This relieved the pressure and the pain.  Six months in a cast during my sophomore year of college with that.  [I'm not even addressing my issues with Nutrasweet that wrecked havoc in middle school or my allergies.  Just injuries.]

With all of that, it is little wonder that I have tons of aches and pains.  About nine years ago, the pain was random and getting pretty bad.  It made no sense.  One day, I would barely be able to move my fingers.  The next week, my fingers were fine and my knee would be so stiff I could barely walk.  It was a stressful time for us.  I was working at Rhodes Furniture, we had just had Josiah, and 9/11 had just happened.  That only seemed to make things worse.  Carrying Josiah around a lot devastated my body.  I went to a doctor and he resorted to the easy shot.  "It's cause you need to lose weight."  Whaaaa?  I can understand the excess weight causing ankle and knee pain - even back pain.  But wrist?  Fingers?  Was the constant lifting of a fork causing me too much stress?

I just lived with it for years.  We moved to Orlando and the pain would ebb and flow.  A new baby usually amplified it - since there was more carrying of the child, their carseat, their bags.  And there was less sleep - which also seemed to hurt things.  Finally I went to another doctor who did a blood test.  He said that he suspected I had rheumatoid arthritis and sent me to a rheumatologist.  At the first appointment, this guy told me he was confident that was it.  There were like ten indicators of RA - and I had eight of them.  That included the blood test, the nodes in my elbows, the random and moving pains.  He was kind of a jerk, though, and tried to put me on level three drugs without ever explaining anything to me.  We switched doctors and I was had an appointment with the new guy.  That was during the weird hurricane season where Orlando got smacked three times in six weeks.  I missed the appointment because half the city didn't have power.  But, the bizarre thing was that the RA kind of just disappeared.    This was six years ago.

I would still have pains here and there.  And if I keep a joint locked in a position or if I use it too much in a repetitive manner, it will hurt a lot for a few days.  But the agony was gone.  There was some flare up with Gabe's birth - and again when we moved here.  Nothing came close to the stuff I fought before, though.  Recently, however, things have started to get bad again.  Injuries don't heal fast - or at all.  I hurt my thumb about a month ago (I fell onto it and bent it weird).  It still hurts now.  My back is hurting all the time.  Some mornings I'll be like the Tin Man - trying to get my ankles, knees, elbows, and hands to start working right.  And, the other day I found one of those dreaded nodes in my elbow.  

I'm obviously not very excited about this.  RA is NOT the same thing as normal arthritis.  Arthritis is isolated into a specific joint - especially one with a previous injury.  So, I have been starting to get arthritis in some of the places that I hurt in the past - the worst being my middle left finger, where the joint swells up like crazy.  RA is actually a chronic inflammatory condition that affects your whole body - muscles, joints, everything.  And the treatment is aggressive and lasts for a lifetime.  It is also one of those conditions where the medicine can seem worse than the disease.  Many of the meds severely weaken your immune system - making you susceptible to infection.  There also can be toxic effects.  Really pleasant stuff.

I have an appointment in two weeks up at the FSU med center to start the evaluation process.  I usually avoid the doctor like the plague - although if I had the plague I would be glad to see the doctor.  First I need a physical and blood tests - to see where my numbers even are.  I haven't had them checked in seven years.  Then it will be time to discuss where I am and how to treat it.  I'm not excited about this.  My family keeps pushing me to try to get this worked on.  And Heather studied RA yesterday in class, which clinched it.  She saw how bad things can get and flat out told me, "You are going to the doctor."  (Stupid med school.)  But she did land me an appointment with one of her professors - so it shouldn't be too bad.  We'll see.  It's pretty bad when you long for the days of being able to tell a doctor "I tripped and broke my toe."

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