Monday, September 29, 2008

One of Those Days

Today is one of those days. You know...

One of those days when your alarm clock doesn't go off and you are awakened at the exact moment when you're supposed to be starting to do something else.

One of those days when you don't have time to change from pajama pants to jeans until 2:00 pm.

One of those days when you don't have a moment to change from your pajama shirt to a bra and t-shirt until 6:00 pm.

One of those days when you don't find the time to brush your teeth 'til after dinner, but all day long you've been promising yourself that it'll be the next thing you do.

One of those days when no matter what you're doing, there's always someone who needs help in the other room.

One of those days when you get four types of bodily fluids or excrements on you.

One of those days when just when you think you get to take a nap, one of the them wakes up and needs your attntion.

One of those days when you have sat, squatted, knelt, bent, and stooped so many times that you are starting to have a hard time getting up off the foor.

One of those days when your phone rings constantly, but since you're in pajamas which don't have any pockets, you have to rush off each time to find the last place you left it.

One of those days when five minutes on the toilet alone with the door closed is the biggest break you've had all day.

One of those days when you constantly feel the need to apologize for not being able to do everything everyone wants of you.

One of those days when you go to get the mail and are tempted to sit down on the curb and breathe for a while.

One of those days when half the day someone is on the floor wanting to be picked up.

One of those days when you feel like you need to complain a little bit about your day at the end of the day.

One of those days when you cut your complaining short so you can go to bed.


Tomorrow's a new day.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Grrrr... --OR-- I'm an Idiot

So I have The Count of Monte Cristo checked out from the library so I can read it for our book club. I remember reading it this morning, then I'm pretty sure I set it on the kitchen table while I put more water in my water bottle. Then I thought I collected my book, my purse and my Bible and went into the garage, throwing all three onto the passenger seat of my car. I was bringing the book because I thought I was going to be pretty late for my adult education class, and if it was already half over I was just going to read in my car.

When I arrived at the church, I remembered to take my atenolol, since I've been taking it at 10:00 am and it was just after 10. In the process, I dropped the open bottle on the floor underneat the steering wheel and had to pick them all up. By then the class was more than two-thirds of the way over, so I reached over for my book, but it wasn't there . I looked all around in my car, and didn't find it. I figured I was just remembering wrong and that I had left the book on the kitchen table, but when I got home the book wasn't there either. I looked on the couch, I looked where I remembered reading it last and then on another couch. I looked on the kitchen counters. I looked all over everywhere I could possibly set the book. Then I decided to look crazy places: I checked the garage, I checked the refrigerator, I checked the bathtub. No book.

You have to understand; this is not a small book. It is about 8-1/2"x6" or so. Oh yes, and it is 1400 pages thick--about 4". This is not the sort of book that slips in cracks somewhere. I researched my car, I researched the house. Then I re-researched the car and the house. The only other option I could think of was that maybe I had set the book on top of the car and then drove off with it on the roof and it had fallen off somewhere. But I think I would hear or see that sliding off. And wouldn't other cars honk to let me know it was up there? It was my last idea, though, so I got in my car and drove the first couple miles of my route to church. Have you ever realized how much junk there is on the sides of the roads? There was a lot--but I didn't see the book.

Where in the world can that stupid book be?! Not only will I have to pay back the library if I can't find it--but I won't be able to read myself to sleep tonight. :-( This is so frustrating!


*You don't get closure because I don't get closure. But if you have any ideas as to where else I should look...

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

In My Mailbox

Twenty minutes ago I walked to the end of my street to get my mail from today and yesterday and to haul back the garbage and recycling carts that I neglected to bring back to my garage yesterday. I tucked the mail under one arm, grabbed a cart with each hand and carefully hauled everything back to the house. I tossed the mail on the couch, went back out to the garage and straightened the bins, then made my way back to the living room and plopped down on the couch. I separated the mail into three stacks: junk I wouldn't even bother opening, personal mail, and everything that may or may not be important, like bills and other things from companies I deal with. First I opened up the lone personal envelope. An adorable baby girl peered up at me from the picture enclosed in my friend's daughter's birth announcement. I smiled and read the announcement, then set it aside and picked up a natural gas bill, or so I thought. It turned out that it wasn't a bill, just information for me as a new customer. Okay.

Next was an envelope from the hospital that my bloodwork had been sent to when I went to the doctor a couple weeks ago. I figured if a UA cost $20 and an EKG cost $35, then the two blood tests would each be somewhere in the same ballpark. I slid my index finger under the flap of the envelope and tore it open, then pulled out the paper and remittance envelope inside. $236. The number jumped off the page at me, and my heart started pumping faster. I was not expecting it to be that big, and I sighed and began to feel a bit panicked. I don't know what you do when you get bad news or good news or funny news or ironic news, but I always call my mom. It's not that she can necessarily fix the problem, but it just always feels better to know that there's someone who knows what I'm going through. I held down the 3 and my phone speed-dialed my mom. "Mom, I just got my bill for the blood tests. Two hundred thirty-six dollars." I hoped my flat tone wouldn't betray the frustrated tear that slid down my cheek. She wondered why it was so much, I replied that I didn't have a clue. She sympathized. "Well," I admitted, "that's all I had to say. Sorry to dump that on you, but you're the one I call with bad news or good news or funny news. Maybe there will be good news in my next bill." "Yeah, maybe," she said wrily. We said goodbye and hung up. I breathed in deeply and then blew the air out slowly through pursed lips. Well, I'd figure something out. I've never not been able to pay a bill yet.

I reached for the next envelope, from my mortgage bank and slowly pulled it open, expecting another invitation to by life insurance that will cover my mortgage--the stupid bank has been sending me an invitation like that every other business for the past four weeks! But what I pulled out looked different. It was a check. For $274.67. What!? I started looking for the catch, you know, something that says, "when you cash this check, you are enrolling yourself in our life insurance program: or something like that. Instead it said "Escrow Overage Refund." Relizing it was genuine, I eagerly grabbed my phone and again held down the 3 button. "What, good news so soon?" she asked facetiously. "I just got a check for $274 dollars as a refund for overpaying to my escrow account!" "Really? Wow! How much was the other check for? Doesn't that leave you with $40 leftover?" "Yep," I grinned, "praise the Lord!"

You know, this actually isn't the first time this has happened to me. When I was in college, one of my cousin's and her husband out of the blue sent me some money and a card that said, "We were just thinking about you and praying for you and felt that God wanted us to send you this." I was surprised and felt a little bit guilty--I wasn't sure what I should spend the money on. Maybe a new coat? Winter was coming on and I didn't have a very warm one. I deposited it in my bank account until I could decide what to do with it. Two weeks later, I went to the doctor with a broken foot, and the sum of my medical bills (office visit, cast, podiatrist checkup) totalled up to $10 less than what they had gifted me. Wow.

I hope this is a lesson that I can "get" this time. God will be faithful to provide for my needs, so next time I'm facing a financial challenge, instead of freaking out, I should remain calm, pray and trust that the Lord knows my need.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

The Good, The Bad and The Uglies

My computer is back after a couple weeks once again at the brink. I thought I'd catch you up to date with two each of the good, bad and the ugly things you missed out on.


Most days Grandma is very, very appreciative of my care. It makes it so much easier to serve her when she is thankful for my help instead of resentful for it as many aging people can be, when they don't want to have to be helped. She thanks me frequently throughout the day for little things I do for her, and she thanks God for me in her prayers, which touch me deeply.

Another good thing that happened came from a sorta-bad thing. I have always had weak ankles, but the past couple years have been blessed enough to not have sprained them at all. The other day I was unloading Gram from the car, and just as I was about ready to push her wheelchair up the ramp into the house, my ankle suddenly gave out on me, turning my foot completely onto it's outerside with a big popping sound. It hurt terribly and I could not put any weight on it, but using Gram's wheelchair for support made it much easier to hop up the ramp and through the kitchen doorway which is inches away from the freezer which holds the ice packs. I iced it immediately, which seemed to keep the swelling to a minimum. When I turn my ankle, the pain always is very intense and I can't tell how bad it is until 5-20 minutes later. If it isn't any better it will usually be a bad sprain that can take weeks or even months to heal. I had no clue how I'd be able to support and transport Grandma if that happened. Thankfully, after five minutes I was able to put weight on it and could tell by the limited pain and swelling that it was only a minor twist. I was able to limp around on it that night and the two days since I have been able to walk normally just being careful not to retwist it in its' weakened state. Praise God for preventing it from being a serious sprain!


There was an accident of the most foul-smelling nature that took quite some time to clean up. As it was the first major one since she's been here, it took me a while to figure out how to best clean everything up. And I mean everything. After 2 hours of wiping, washing, and sanitizing...we conquered the mess. But I'm hoping it won't be frequently repeated. At least next time I'll have the process down. :-)

I've been feeling pretty weak, which makes some days very difficult. My appointment with the endocrinologist isn't until mid-October. On top of that, the migraines that have been much less frequent the past few years have resumed (or perhaps even surpassed) the frequency I was accustomed to in college. I've been experiencing intense migraine headaches about every four or five days the past several weeks. Medication doensn't always relieve the pain (not even twice my dose of vicodin!), and when it does work I worry because I have a limited quantity of it and every time I use it I'm closer to running out. Even when the pain goes away I am often nauseaus, which is gross, but I guess it's better than being light and sound sensitive since those symptoms make it much harder for me to help gram than just nausea and malaise. I'm tired of my body and ready for a new one.


As Gram has expressed dissatisfaction with her hairstyle, I tried to help her with it. I parted it in the middle, and pinned it back on the sides in a cute style that helped cover the areas where her hair is thinning. Well, she didn't like it. "I look haggy," she grumbled as she looked in the mirror. "What does that mean?" I asked. "It means I look like an old hag!" So the next few days instead of styling her hair the way I thought it was cute, I tried to help her style it the way I thought she wanted it (which I don't think is very flattering on her, but I guess it's more important how she feels than how she looks). But even then she was always dissatisfied (even though she sometimes tried to hide that so she won't discourage me). In the end, I gave up helping her as each attempt produced an "ugly hag" look to her eyes. :-) On a positive note, though, I cut her hair the other day and she really really likes the hair cut!

Moving from the mundane to the serious...ugliness number two is my heart. I'm not quite as worried about the discouragement and hopeleness that I sometimes feel. That's just a result of many changes, and the depression and anxiety that have come along with the hyperthyroidism. But what does worry me is the bitterness and resentment that I can feel in my heart sometimes. Tonight I am very frustrated because after coming home from Mindy's birthday dinner at my parents' house, Grandma has spent over two hours getting ready for bed. She is doing all sorts of extra preparations tonight even though I've asked her to be quicker, since I have to wake up at 5:30 on Sundays in order to have time to get myself and then her ready for church. Last week I was nodding and blinking all service long and didn't really hear what the pastor was saying because I was concentrating so hard on staying awake. Gram has insisted that I can go to bed and she'll just put herself to bed just fine--but that doesn't always work out as we hope, and since she has a hard time rousing me from sleep, I want to stay up until she's tucked safely between her sheets. In the meantime, I am so angry with her. I'm exhausted and all I want to do is sleep, but I can't because she's won't go to bed until she puts her curlers in (apparently and hour-and-a-half process that I will ruin of course if I try to help). And because I'm feeling angry at her, I'm now feeling angry with myself for being so impatient and bitter and spiteful right now. She's an old woman who doesn't look the way she wants to look anymore, but has a strong sense of how she should look for church. I chose to care for her so that I could love her and help her and serve her, but sometimes I feel resentful to her for what was my own choice. I don't know that there is any answer to this besides continuing to pray for patience and love. But it is definitely the ugliest part of our situation.


It's been fun to get to hear stories from Gram's life. I knew that her dad died when she was 13, but now I know what that was like for her, and I can imagine the happenings of that sad and scary day. Okay, that was a bad example of fun...but I've been able to learn about her relationships with siblings, and the various romances that each have been involved in. I've learned about Gram's various boyfriends, her first fiance, and her later relationship with and marriage to my grandpa. I've heard about her job in a theatre and her job with information at the telephone company before she moved up to the position of operator. She remembers those days vividly, like they were yesterday, but she can't remember the real yesterday--or even two minutes ago sometimes. Which is probably why she calls her son and daughter by the names of her older brother and sister. It's been fun hearing stories and imagining the full life she lived that I only have had a glimpse of as her granddaughter.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

My Health

I've already been sick a couple of times this year. It's normal for me to have much less energy and strength when I'm sick. That coupled with the fact that I was out of shape, made me super tired this May as I was getting over being sick. Eventually I realized that it was too long after being sick to blame that for my fatigue. I decided I was in the worst shape of my life as it became difficult to even climb stairs--my legs felt to weak to climb the last couple steps.

On July 5th, I finally realized that this was more than an out-of-shape issue. For one thing, I was losing weight. In three months I had lost 20 lbs without trying to. Also, even when I was resting, my heartrate was high--usually above 100. I was fatigued and my muscles were weaker than ever. I went to the internet and found a website where I entered my symptoms and it told me possible diagnoses. The most likely one seemed to be congestive heart failure (or CHF). This absolutely freaked me out, since it's serious but I was afraid to go to the doctor until I could obtain and afford insurance.

Needless to say, my family (once I decided to share with them) was very concerned for me. After several weeks of believing myself to have CHF, I had the opportunity to get the opinions of several nurses. One of them listened to my lungs and didn't hear the crackling sound that would indicate CHF. The other two mentioned that generally someone with CHF would gain weight, not lose it. My aunt (a nurse) mentioned that the sudden weight loss could indicate an overactive thyroid.

My family has continued to be concerned about me, and last week when I slept through my grandma's calls for me in the morning, and she feared I had died in my sleep, I decided I needed to get checked out--for them as well as for me. I called the only medical office I know of in the area that accepts patients without insurance, and was told by them to go to urgent care if my heartrate was rapid. She gave me the number for an clinic that would acccept me without insurance (and give me a 25% discount for immediate payment!). I felt stupid about it, but I did go the next day. To my surprise, I had the best medical experience of my life at that urgent care clinic. The doctor I saw listened to me, examined me thoroughly, ordered necessary tests and spent time answering my questions. I had some bloodwork done and the lab results showed that I do have an overactive thyroid. The doctor prescribed me beta blockers, which will help keep the heart healthy and working well, and is referring me to an endocrinologist who should be able to help me determine what caused the condition and how we can treat it. The urgent care visit, EKG, and UA only cost me $150. The lab that did the blood tests is going to bill me for those tests, but I'm pretty happy with how inexpensively I was diagnosed. Unfortunately, the specialist will probably cost more, but mostly I'm hoping that I'll be able to afford whatever treatment is necessary.

I honestly don't know much more other than that, I'm still learning about this condition. But I am really, really, REALLY glad that there is a reason for why I've been feeling so crummy the past few months, and I'm hoping that in a few more, I'll be feeling back to normal. Now that I'm learning a bit more about hyperthyroidism I'm recognizing other things that are symptoms that I didn't know were related (difficulty sleeping, tremors and shakiness, intolerance of heat, anxiety and panic attacks, etc.). It's nice to know those things may stop with treatment, too. uninsured plight has turned out pretty good so far... I'll keep you all updated when I find out more.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

The Plight of the Uninsured

Imagine that you do not have health insurance. It may be because you were dropped off of your parents' policy when you finished your schooling and you never bothered to activate your own policy. It may be because you switched jobs and your work no longer provides group insurance. It may simply be because you cannot afford the premiums of group or individual insurance.

At times when you find yourself without insurance--especially if you've always had it before, but now it's gone--you live very carefully in an attempt to make up for your lack of coverage. You spray disinfectant all over the entire apartment after your sick roommate goes to bed and you avoid hanging out with your family when someone has a cold or the flu. You cringe when someone sneezes and hold your breath while their germs "settle"--or you try to breathe through your sleeve, using it as a filter. Despite your best efforts, you occasionally get sick, but are relieved when you get better without requiring the assistance of a prescription.

After a while, years maybe, you begin to develop a sense of security. You think to yourself, I've saved myself thousands of dollars by not paying for insurance--and look! I didn't even need it! Maybe it's better not to have insurance at all until I get older. I mean, I'm sure I'll need it sometime...maybe I'll try to get it next year. You keep putting it off because you keep not needing it.

Then--and this may happen suddenly or it may creep up on you gradually--your body is at some point different. You've been telling yourself that this weakness was merely residual from the flu-bug you're getting over, but then you realize that it's been over a month since you were sick. You've been assuming that your fatigue and rapid heart rate are because you're falling out of shape. But then you realize that you've been in worse shape before and you've never felt like this in your entire life. One day you wonder if there is something wrong with your body, but you shrug it off and try to convince yourself that you're being a hypochondriach. A few days later, though, you google some of your symptoms on the internet (the grand E-Doctor to those without insurance) and you're terrified by what you find. No, you tell yourself, I'm too young for that. I'm just exaggerating this. I'm just really out of shape. And you almost convince yourself that you're fine. Until you begin to notice other things with your body that could possibly be a symptom of what you saw on the internet and after a few days, you resign yourself to the fact that you are not well. Hopelessness ensues.

You know that you need insurance if your worst fears are confirmed, but there's a problem. Your problem may be that you still just can't afford the premiums or that you are not healthy enough to pass a physical exam required before acceptance because of what's going on or because of past injuries or conditions. Your problem may be that you can't meet reasonable underwriting guidlines because of your age, weight, smoking habit or other high-risk factors.

You wonder if you can share your fears with your family or closest friends. If I talk about this to someone now and then get insurance later, could my insurance company refuse to cover it saying this was a preexisting condition? Could my conversations be used to prove that I had suspicions about my health? Would they think to interview my family or friends? At this point, you decide you can't risk it and you feel completely alone facing this situation without anyone even being aware of your struggle. You feel sick to your stomach and begin to experience symptoms of extreme stress.

Finally, you can't hold it in anymore and you confide in someone you trust, telling them how you've been feeling, what you've read about it, and how you don't know what to do. They respond encouraging you to go to the doctor. You want to see a doctor, but you're fearful that if you do you may be diagnosed with something that will preclude you from ever being able to obtain private insurance. You keep hoping that if you wait a few months more, you can improve whatever is keeping you from meeting the insurance underwriting guidelines now: you can quit smoking or lose weight. Or if it's a monetary issue, maybe in a few months you can save up enough money to help with the premiums.

You feel relieved that you now have someone to talk to about your situation, and some of your stress subsides. But without insurance you're between a rock and a hard place: you fear that waiting months before seeing a doctor could complicate your medical situation, but if you go see him now, you risk being diagnosed with something that you can't afford to treat and that will keep you from ever getting private insurance that could help you afford treatment. So you make a choice.

Since we are imagining, I can't happy-end this hypothetical post. There are too many alternate endings: the uninsured person could...

1. Wait to see a doctor, obtain health insurance, and be happily treated.
2. Wait to see a doctor and obtain health insurance, only to find out that irreversible damage has been done to body in the meantime.
3. Wait to see the doctor, still not be able to obtain health insurance and be in the exact same situation, only with a progressing medical condition.
4. See the doctor immediately, find out that the problem is serious, but that treatment is insanely expensive.
5. See the doctor immediately, find out that the problem is not major or that it can be affordably treated.

How does the uninsured person choose?

I know this is a bad ending to this post, but you know what? For the uninsured person, the story sometimes ends badly or with uncertainty.

I bet you've probably guessed by now that this isn't a hypothetical situation for me. You'll have to read my next post to see where I am in this journey.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Lucid Mornings / Confused Evenings

Wow. I guess I just experienced the highs and lows of functionality that can occur in a single day in Grandma's life. Today when she woke up, Gram was doing very well. She wasn't shaking, she was transferring herself without assistance, and dressing herself. We conversed about stuff throughought the morning and she communicated fine.

Then this evening, I was preparing a pot roast while Gram was in her room organizing her toiletries in the bathroom. Once the roast was in, I sauntered on down the hall to see how things were going with her, and to see if she needed my help with anything. I walked into her room just in time to see her scooping pills out of multiple sections of her weekly pill case. (I had left the pill case in a prominent place in her room so that I would be reminded to give them to her regularly.) At that point, the only pills she still needed to take for the day were her bedtime pills. "Gram, what are you doing?" I asked, as I hurried to take the pill case, "you already took most of your pills for today." She insisted that she hadn't taken any pills yet, and I gently reminded her that she had taken some when she woke up in the morning, midday, and in the early evening. "No, all my pills were still in the case," she insisted. I looked at the case and explained, "Gram, today is Monday...see your pills are gone except for the bedtime ones. You were looking at Tuesday's sections." "Oh..." She finally relented. Thankfully, the dozen-plus pills that she had emptied were still clutched in her hand, and it only took me a few minutes to sort them back into the appropriate places. I'm now keeping the pills on top of the refrigerator. I learn by experience, but I'm glad that lesson took place without her harming herself with an overdose of some sort.

Since she slept in late today, Gram wasn't ready to go to bed until way after I had wanted to be in bed. She insisted that she could get herself ready, but agreed to let me help. All the while she kept telling me I could just go to bed and let her finish on her own. We got her changed and ready so that all she needed to do was brush her teeth and climb into bed and at her insistence I left her at 1:15, assuring her that if she had a hard time getting into bed she could use her whistle to call me. Then I went to bed. 45 minutes later, I thought I semi thought I heard something and sat up wondering, was that Grandma calling me? I didn't hear anything else so I lay back down. But then I heard a whistle followed by "Kristi! KRISTI!" I jumped out of bed and ran out, wondering if she had fallen out of bed. Thankfully, Gram wasn't on the floor. She was sitting in her wheelchair at the doorway of her room. "Oh...there you were," she said as I came from the room next to hers, "I thought you were down there." She pointed to the living room, forgetting that she had told me to go to bed, "Why didn't you hear me?" "I heard something," I explained, "but I wasn't sure if what I had heard was your voice until you whistled. That I clearly heard over the fan in my room." "Oh...that's right, you have a fan." "So what's up?" I asked, "Are you having a hard time getting into bed?" "Oh...I don't know...... I guess I haven't tried yet." "Well, what did you call me for?" I said with a puzzled look. "Hmm...," she lowered her eyes sheepishly, "I guess mostly just to hear your voice." "Well, why don't I help you into bed now," I suggested and to my delight she consented. I helped her in and pulled up the covers. "Good night, Gramma. I love you. I'm really glad you're here." "I'm glad I'm here too."

So, leaving my grandmother's room at 2:00 am, I smiled to myself. I'm not tired yet, since I had quite the adrenaline rush when I thought she'd fallen out of bed, and it always takes a while to come down from that. So now I'm just sitting here on my bed giggling to myself about her calling me for no apparent reason at 2:00 am. And I decided to share it so that you could giggle too.

Monday, September 1, 2008

She's Here!

Yesterday we moved my grandma into my house. Now there are two people half-unpacked here. heh heh. (I decided I hate unpacking almost as much as I hate dusting.) But I'm so thankful that five months after we made the decision to move forward with this plan, it's finally begun!

Today we both slept in, and then we got her ready for the day. Since she eats very slowly, I finish way before. She doesn't read so well anymore, so I'm going to read the Bible to her after I'm done and while she's still eating.

After that I told her we should check some of our relative's blogs. I went to my bedroom and came back into the dining room carrying my laptop. "Do you call that contraption a blog?" Gram asked me.

"Ahh, no...this is a computer. But we use it to look at blogs." My grandma has a very vague sense of what the internet is, and so she looked on in amazement as I popped up one of my cousin's blogs. I magnified the window to 200% so that she could see the pictures better, and read the last few entries of the blog.

"That's so nice," she said as we left a comment, "so they see our note the next time they look at it?" Yay! She's getting it! Then we read another blog. And another. The third one had a video clip of my cousin's baby boy playing with his daddy. Gram and I both laughed as we listened to his adorable giggle. Then we watched another 10-minute video that was in the blog. "It's amazing what they can do these days!" she exclaimed. As I shut the laptop she admitted, "I can see why you guys get so attached to those things--computers."

I was pretty happy with her response. :-) It's been a great first day.