Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Health Update 2008

My rheumatoid arthritis seems to be stable. Although it hasn't gotten worse, it also hasn't gotten any better. I never thought I would be one of those people who require a pillbox to remember what pills I'm supposed to take on what days. I can't believe how many meds I'm on.

Because RA is an auto-immune disease, and the medication to combat it lowers my immunity, I seem to be susceptible to everything. If there's a germ, virus, bacteria in Idaho, I'll catch it. I've had so many sinus infections (or maybe it's been just one infection that I've had for 3 years now) I can't remember what it's like to breathe normally. I use a neti pot twice a day, sometimes 3, which certainly helps, but it doesn't solve the problem.

About 2 months ago my lower right leg was swollen. I dismissed it for a while as a symptom of the arthritis. It had started with a swollen ankle, so I didn't think much of it. At school one day, I showed it to our resident EMT, Sue Sawers, just to get her opinion. (We actually have two paramedics in the middle school, which is very comforting).
"Sue, what do you think this is?"
"Chris, I think you should call your doctor."
"Okay, I'll see if I can call him this week."
"No, I think you should call today."

So I called the doctor.
"My leg is swollen below the knee, and an EMT in the building said I should call for an appointment."
"Chris, I think we'll get you in as soon as possible. Can you be here at 12:30?"

The doctor sent me right over to the ultrasound, where they found a blood clot.
My doctor told me, "Not very long ago I would have put you in the hospital for 4 or 5 days."
Fortunately, they now have outpatient therapy. I was able to take home the necessary blood-thinning injections until the coumadin took affect. The downside? I had to stay at home for a week with my leg up. Do you know how hard it was to keep my leg up all day? I hated it. After a week at home, I needed to get out of the house, so I went back to work, for a full day. I know, it wasn't very smart.

I ended up taking the rest of that week off because that one day took so much out of me.

At one point I was fighting the blood clot, arthritis, sinus infection, ear infection, and cough all at the same time. I'm not ashamed to admit, I wasn't winning any of those battles, let alone the war.

I had to get some support socks to keep my leg from exploding. Who knew a doctor could give a prescription for those things? I didn't.

The ear infection reached its worse during Thanksgiving. I spent the weekend at my parents' house trying not to die. At least that's what it felt like. It was a horrible weekend, but I'm glad I was around family.

I don't think my sinuses will ever clear up, but it's bearable.
I think ear infections are probably the new norm for me. I'm going to talk with my ENT (not EMT) about tubes in my ears.
I only have a month left on blood thinners, then we'll see if the blood clot is still there.
The RA hasn't taken away every activity, but it has taken some of the most fun. If my health stays the way it is now, I'll survive, not thrive, but survive.
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