Sunday, October 13, 2019

Sunday Stroke Survival: Time to Flip the Wardrobe

With the cooler days and nights, it's time to flip the wardrobe. Gone are the easy days of T-shirts and shorts which comprises the bulk of my dressing options for these north Georgia foothills. They are exchanged for sweaters, sweatshirts, and long pants.

This year in thinking of this change, I'm facing a new complication. Adult diapers, more exactly changing them. It's more complicated than with shorts which slide off and on easily over my AFO and shoes. With long pants, it mean taking off my shoes, sliding my pants off, changing my pull up, and repeating the process in reverse before leaving the bathroom. I'm basically getting halfway undressed and redressing every time I do this. The few times I've done this in the spring and summer months showed me it's going to be a long, hard winter. Sure you can rip the sides to get out of them easy enough to do with two functioning hands, but more difficult with only one. It still doesn't alleviate having to undress to put on the clean one.

I've been researching patterns to make durable options like I did with the pads.  Unlike the pads where I could trace the disposable pad I liked the best, full "panties" are different and I'd need a pattern that don't come cheap.  Then comes the problem of size. While regular underwear patterns patterns go by waist size, while my normal waist size is is spot on a size 7, there are extra seam allowances for the snapping portions. several small elastic placements at the waist to hold up a wet diaper. It's not like sewing regular panties because of the absorbent padding makes for extra bulk. It'll take a lot of elastic work to accomplish.

 Sewing elastic onto fabric with two functioning hands is easy. I've just got to figure out a way to do it with one hand. It may be as simple as using a dozen pins the maintain the stretch while sewing and a loop at the back of the sewing machine to hold the fabric straight while sewing or a  lot more complicated. I honestly haven't tried to do anything but flat, straight stitches yet.

I've already know how to attach the snaps through trial and errors in making my own pads. So that won't be a problem. That was a challenge and a half when I was trying to figure out how to do it.

Currently, I'm roughly going through a case of disposable diapers in a month. That's 54 of them to the tune of $22.50. That's about 12 per week. At $0.41 a piece, it's a decent price, but I'm trying for the ease of changing them without having to undress and redress each time. The cost difference will eventually save me money in the long run. The same was true for the chucks pads I use to protect the mattress or even the pads. Yes, I could buy these ready made, but they are cost prohibitive or it would take longer to reach a break even point.

But then on the other hand rethinking this, I'd go through acrobatic feats of wonder trying to do up all the snaps or Velcro with each change. It's a no win scenario for 6 months out of a year all to keep from undressing during the cold parts of fall and winter. I guess I grin and literally bare it, quite literally, until I get my somewhat bladder control back. Sigh!  This too is living post stroke.

Nothing is impossible.

Sunday, October 6, 2019

Sunday Stroke Survival: Incontinence? Nope. It's Worse!

When you talk about incontinence, you mainly think about the bladder. When you talk about bowel incontinence, it's something else entirely. I don't have this problem except in cases of diarrhea. But even the "norms" have a control issue with this, don't they? During these times, even they wish they had diapers to save wear and tear of their clothes, and embarrassment of accidents. But I'm already in them.

I had a incident this past weekend that caused me some real concern. Of course it happened over the weekend, it's an addendum to the old Murphy's Law. If something happens when you need your PCP, it'll happen on a weekend, holiday, or night when his/her office is closed. Then, you you have to weigh your options under is it bad enough to warrant an ER visit.

Now being a former emergency medical professional, I weigh this differently than most people. It's more of a question of "will it kill me if I wait until Monday?" I don't use the ER frivolously at any time after normal business hours. Things like a cut that needs stitches to close with bleeding I can't control by other means, broken bones besides fingers and toes, or true medical emergencies like heart attack or a stroke...all of these require emergency services.

 (this is gross, but true)
The event of the weekend just barely fell in both category. I decided to wait until Monday. As is my usual habit, my bowels decided to do it's weekly or biweekly purge...slight constipation (hard stone like bowel movement), followed by a couple of normal movements, and ending with a couple of really loose movements. This is not true diarrhea, but diarrhea type movements as a way to finish purging my bowels.

Except this time was different. By the time I reached by two loose stool movements there was blood tinged mucous. The cramping (I now feel it just under my rib cage in my back) didn't stop. This was highly unusual. After I walked the bathroom and sit on the commode, the cramping got so bad I vagaled. (profuse sweating, dizziness, low BP, hot flash, a high heart rate). Instead of the expected bowel movement I passed huge bloody mucous blobs. The bloody parts were bright red which told me it was a rectal vein.

This continued through the night. By Saturday, I couldn't pass gas without spewing blood. If it got any worse, I'd go to the ER otherwise I'd wait until Monday to see my PCP. By Saturday evening, the mucousy blood movements stopped, but were replaced by blood clots. So whatever ruptured inside was trying to heal in spite of my blood thinners. When you are on blood thinners, you can expect to bleed more heavily than normal. I was thinking that was the case here.

By Sunday evening, I had two incidents of passing clots and it finally stopped. All during this time I ate and drank normally. I applied witch hazel patches to my anal area to shrink whatever was it was causing the bleeding. So, it wasn't like I wasn't doing nothing. At no time did the bleeding turn darker, like an upper GI bleed, nor more profuse other than I described.

Caveat here, I am a trained emergency medical professional. I do know when the abnormal turns critical and warrants further intervention of others. If you are not, by all means, go to the ER.At times, the thought of going through my mind and I would have if the symptoms gotten worse than what I experienced, or hadn't slowed, or if the amount of blood was greater than a monthly menstrual cycle. I would definitely carried my unhappy hinny to the hospital, I'm not stupid. I just don't panic in "emergency" type situations. I observe and evaluate first as I was taught.

I know from experience that the ER would have done a wait and observe the progress with a possible admission for the weekend. With a cleansing ritual to prepare for a scope or colonoscopy for the regular work week. Been there, done that, and don't want to go through that again. The only conclusion the internist could make after that fact was that the area in question was healed or healing on it's own and ordered a stool softener for a week. I've got plenty of stool softeners here after the surgeries of spring and summer if I need it.

By using prior knowledge, I saved myself a ER visit, possible admission, a colonoscopy and a bunch sheer aggravation of wasted money. But yes, I will appraise my PCP about this when I see him next week.

Nothing is impossible.

Sunday, September 29, 2019

Sunday Stroke Survival: Incontinence Revisited

Since my first Baclofen pump surgery in April, the marginal bladder control I had, since my first stroke, is gone. I used to feel the urge to go and make to the bathroom in time except for a little dribble. To handle this, I wore a pad. It worked well for almost 6 years.

To be honest, I had stress incontinence long before my stroke, but this was corrected by a sling  placement during the surgery to remove five tumors from my abdomen in 2006. The sling ruptured in 2013. My signal time to go and leakage dropped to 1 minute...about the time I could make it to the bathroom and not have an accident. The signal cue was delayed by my loosing sensory feeling in my peritoneal area with my first stroke. I now take my cues from my belly button. At the time, I was on Lasix also which only compounded the problem.

Since the trauma to the nerves in my lower spine during the baclofen pump placement, that cue of have to go to bathroom dropped to 3 seconds. I could barely stand up and get my legs straight when the flood started. It was no longer a trickle, but bladder emptying gushes of urine with every step with very little control. I made the decision to go back into diapers, or pull ups. Immediately I noticed a huge difference in price for a month's worth. The pull ups were cheaper than the Always pads I was buying. I was honestly surprised by this. The gushes being handled had the benefit of no more clothing changes, 3 or 4 showers daily, embarrassing accidents, and mental stress relief.

Now I know all about kegel exercises, timed bladder emptying, etc. I've worked on it all since April trying to get control of my bladder to no avail. With the pump removal, the trauma to those sensory nerves has doubled. I no longer have that cue at my belly button. Even with timed bladder emptying and fluid restriction, a gush can happen within 30 minutes after fully and conscientiously emptying my bladder. There is no controlling it or reteaching my bladder right now. So adult diapers are a necessity. I can accept that. Have I a choice, no. At least I've got my bowel control back after a month long battle with diarrhea (caused by a low fiber diet and meds they had me on) after my hospital stay.

So I've currently given up on my bladder control issues for the time being. I've got bigger irons in the fire that demand my immediate attention. Knowing from previous spinal traumas, it will take four to six months for the trauma to heal. By then, God willing, I'll have a new pump implanted setting the clock back again. I'm in no hurry. You can't fight your body's healing time. Every body heals differently and I know mine. I'm the Queen of Abby Normal, I take the maximum time to heal, and then some. I look at the time to heal as guidelines. Some heal faster and some heal slower, I'm a snail. I always have been since I hit forty and became an insulin dependent diabetic. Now that the diabetes is no more, I'm still a slow healer. Go figure.

I know I've said spinal trauma several times in this post. To me, due to my training, trauma is damage or shock to my spine. An intrusion or insult of a foreign substance, that causes pain and swelling displacing a normal condition. A catheter was fed from my lower spine to my cervical spine. For my height, that's almost a foot and a half.  The incision point, the insertion of the catheter, in the implantation they had oi chip a piece of my spine to anchor the leads, and stitches to hold everything in place. Plus, the catheter puts pressure along the spinal cord. All of that was traumatizing my spine and spinal cord.

Now with the pull ups, I can get up, and do within reason without having urine running down my legs by the time I get to the bathroom. I'm still in the recovering my stamina from my July stint in the hospital. I'm still not recovered it all yet. I may never will, but that remains to be seen. Such is life in an older body. Everyday, I push my boundaries. Some days I bounce back, and others I need a couple of days to bounce back. I've got until spring planting season to get it back. So I'll keep working at it.

Nothing is impossible.

Sunday, September 22, 2019

Sunday Stroke Survival: Phone Scams/Emails SPAM Rant

Just because I'm older doesn't mean I'm stupid! This has nothing to do with living post stroke only real life.

Since the loss of my phone and my inability to get another working phone, I've been using Mel's phone. I've been answering a lot of "unknown caller" calls. They are usually one of my doctors or family and friends with the usual robot call.

One particular phone call had me rattled this week. They knew my name, address, and was calling for me on Mel's phone. They were calling to inquire about a missing $1,000 check. As it so happens, I was actually involved in a check dispute at the time for that exact amount. But, when they starting asking questions like SS# and date of my birth, the alarm bells went off in my head. They only referred to the other party as "client" I knew something was fishy. She said in an Indian accented English, there was a form I needed to sign, and did I have a fax # to send it to. I answered no, but they had my mailing address. Just mail it to me. It's been two weeks and no form. And now a month later, still no form in my mail box.

To top it off, I called the other party and several others. My roommate even got the call using her name. They also have received phone calls. The paranoid gene kicked off in my brain (it could have been the coming off my anti-psychotic med too). Is someone watching me for some unknown reason? Am I being targeted? Or has someone found my old phone and using that information? Was I really going nuts, or reverting to my past experience as a law enforcement officer? I loved my stint in Bunco and I was good at it. I checked with my friends and one of them called the number left on his voice mail and called them back. The recording said they had regular business hours and to leave a message. In contacting Verizon, I found the phone had not been powered up/charged and turned on, or wasn't pinging the location. That said "Scam Alert"  to me. If I had not been for coincidental factors I would have known it was a scam sooner.

But, have you noticed the recent influx of email scams/spams? With titles like "collaboration blog" or just requests to write a blog touting their product? I've worked long and hard on this Blogspot website and been posting since 1999 and this particular site since 2011. I've got the following, the hits (over half a million), and the comments. I know Blogspot sells this info. They have to make money somehow and it costs big money to do this for free.

I treat every email as a link to a virus, worm, hack, or other such nonsense. I rarely click on links unless they come from really trusted friends who think the same way I do and recognize the site I'm going to, like YouTube. My computer and other I send messages to are too important to me. It's a shame that hackers make such nasty things to ruin such a big part of our lives. But those are the times we live in.

I usually just read and delete them. But, this email arrived the day after the phone scam thing, and I had a short-lived hope...

Hi Dear,
It is so nice to have this chance to enjoy reading your blog.
Here is our website: https://www.custom-necklace .com/

We sincerely invite you to cooperate with us for a post:
*You write an 300-500 words article with links about our products and post it on your blog or social website for permanent.

Waiting for your positive reply.
Best Regards

I went and looked because I was thinking it may have some handicap closures, etc. Don't bother. They don't. Disappointed, I fired back this...


I stopped by your website. Beautiful jewelry.

You obviously have not read my blog. My blog contains articles that pertain to stroke and brain injury survivors for the last seven years. AND, before that it was my author's site.

Unless you have items that can be fastened with one functioning hand your bracelets and necklaces don't appear to function that way. Try it yourself, and then you'll see the some challenges we face daily.

Impressed by my stats, which is where I suspect you got my email from, don't be. I'd switch bodies with you anytime. I lost two careers that I loved with my strokes. My publishing and as an ordained minister.

I know you are just doing your job.
Usually, I'd not bother. Ellen caught me at a weak moment. I haven't heard back from Ellen. If you knew me, I'm clearly visible in my posts, nobody calls me "Dear" unless you're over 90 years old and then, you call everyone you don't know dear. Even then you are stretching it. But I'll comply, sort of with this and it's not going to be pretty. My horns are showing...

All necklaces have lobster clasp or "C" clasps on all necklaces
Not user friendly for a one handed person
I sent this to Ellen after this post appeared.
You wanted 300-500 words. You got only new 222 words. Actually, with the publication of our email conversations it hits the mark, two pieces of jewelry shown and a visit to your website, shows your website addy, it's permanent, and published on my blog. Are you happy now? Have a blessed day.
I warned you my horns were showing. So scammers, hackers, and cold calling marketers beware. I got your number.  
Nothing is impossible.

Sunday, September 15, 2019

Sunday Stroke Survival: Aging

1971 Shasta camper
Getting off the subject of my ill health woes. I was watching a YouTube video of revamping a vintage camper into a tiny house. Yes, I'm still crazy about tiny houses. The camper in question was a 1971 pull behind "RV." It struck my funny bone. Vintage?! I was getting ready to graduate high school when this camper was built.

It got me thinking about aging. If the 1970s was vintage, what would I be called at my age? I'm certainly not antique because I'd have to be over 100 years old. I'm old, but not that old although I do feel like I'm close to it right now. Ancient would be over 1,000 years old. I definitely don't fit in this category. What's in between vintage and antique?

That set me searching. There isn't one. If you know of one, please let me know. I love the word SEXagenarian. It covers the ages between the 60s and 70s. So I can use it for a few more years. So I guess I'm mid-line vintage. That's not too bad, I guess.😕

When I think vintage, I think sock hops, drive-in diners, and saddle shoes. Today, it's Afros out to there, bell bottom jeans, and heavy eye makeup of my high school years. My younger sisters even had old train cases full of make up. Me not so much. Even back then, I wasn't a fru-fru girl. A little bit of blusher, mascara and maybe a pencil eyeliner. 
In case you didn't know, a train case was a small suitcase carry on that your parents or grandparents used to carry essentials in when traveling. Smaller than a carry-on. My sisters had it full of different colored mascaras, eyeliners, lipsticks, eye shadows, etc. to achieve just the right look. It took them hours, reapplying during the day, to put it all on, keep it on, and take it off. The most make up I ever wore was my wedding day (the first one). My sisters made us appointments at Merle Norman's. They offered free make up jobs in the hopes that you'd buy all their products. I have to admit I looked darn good in the photographs, but I couldn't wait until I could wash it all off.

I guess that's why, until my strokes seven years ago, most people pegged my age at least ten years younger. Besides being Asian, I let my skin breathe for most of my life. Your skin is the largest organ. You need to protect it. I've never even been tempted to go to a tanning place, but wore sunscreen, and tanned naturally through outside activities. By the end of summer, I was a golden brown and usually still am. Not this year though, I've been inside too much. sigh! A tiny medical reference.

I'm vintage and loving it! I'm thinking of finely, aged wines and cars. Classical and not as crude as I once was. Not a beauty queen, but the girl next door pretty. Well, maybe if I take the time to brush my hair and apply some make up. I prefer infamous to fame. I'm the type of of person who gets behind you and pushes you to be the best you can be, and applaud you the loudest when you get there. I'm just Jo. I'm aging not so gracefully, but what you see is what you get. Now, I'm too vintage to care what you think. But then again, I've always felt that way even in high school.

I still believe "Nothing is impossible." Ir keeps me going and striving to be whatever I want to be. No matter how old I am or what it's called.