Sunday, August 26, 2018

Sunday Stroke Survival: Time to Get Off the Pot

I've spent enough time on the pot to have a nice red ring around my bottom. I've allowed myself too much time on it. The increase in my medicine has helped somewhat. I'm sleeping six hours at night again. It's time to get up and go.

I've enlisted my other doctors to push Emory into getting dates for me. Lord knows, I've tried everything short of physically camping out in their offices. I can ask my physicians to do this because they like me and are doing all they can to help me get back what I've lost. They have watched my decline with much sadness. It's worth it's weight in gold to have doctors like this.

Having physicians like this is no accident. I recently had to change all my physicians with my move to north Georgia two years ago. These people didn't know me from Adam except those specialists that my previous specialists referred me to like my neurologist. I searched, asked for referrals, and interviewed each candidate (doctor) that I would be using.

I approached each in the very first appointment as a employer weeding out candidates for a job. I am paying them after all, aren't I? I paid for my SS Medicare while I was working. I also pay monthly for my BCBS supplement. I also pay out of pocket each year for deductibles and co pays. It makes sense, right? I outline in the "interview" what has been done and tried by others, what worked and did not work, and what I expect from my health care provider. They can either accept my terms of employment or not be hired.

Open discussion of options is an imperative. They've got to listen as well as talk. I also let them know that as my employee, they can be fired. When it comes to my health and well being, this is a necessary evil. I take nothing for granted and don't expect them to either. We have to all be on the same page. I expect all my doctors be aware of what my other doctors are doing, when, and why. They are my team and I am dependent on them. I expect them to have my back as they have mine.

Finding this special breed of doctor is no easy task. So many have a "God" or "Captain of the ship" complex. But choosing your health care provider is your choice and responsibility in the US. Too accept anything less should be against your basic principles.

I'm simply tired of waiting on Emory. I'm tired of the run around I'm getting and it's time to enlist others to help me in this quest.  Even if one or two doctors accept the challenge to help that doubles my chances of actually getting a dates I need. My cardiologist and neurologist agrees. It's been five months worth of waiting and they have worked with me to keep me functioning. They are also getting tired of this waiting also and are running out of options.

My physical therapist is reaching out to other therapist to see if there is something (anything she hasn't tried) to help me to no avail. She's reached her limit also. Twice a month she asks me if I've heard anything. She is honestly getting frustrated too. When we first embarked (first appt with Emory) on this journey, she just found out she was pregnant. She's due next month. Now I'm hoping the surgery date is while she is out with her baby, so I won't have to have another therapist other than the one at Emory.

I'm thinking about joining the YMCA. I am weakening so much from pain/AFO issues imposed inactivity, that I'm thinking aquatic exercises might help. I got the idea from Barb Polan's blog.  She does aqua therapy at her therapy sessions. Water offers resistance and buoyancy.  When I lived in south Georgia, the beach was a stone's throw away, but here in the foothills, there's nothing close by. Even so, the Y is 13 miles away via  the interstate. My physical therapy office doesn't have a pool in their practice. The cost is $42 a month (senior price), but I should be able to afford that and I can also use their weight room for cycling and leg exercises. Monday-Thursday aqua aerobic classes and on Wednesday they have chair strength and stretch class. The classes are early in the morning so it shouldn't interfere with much. The more I think about it, the more I think I should make the call. I owe it to me. I may wait until the first of the month and wait for Emory to call. That way I can start fresh with a new month.

So it's time to get off the self pity pot and go...
Nothing is impossible.

Sunday, August 19, 2018

Sunday Stroke Survival: Up All Night

Remember back when you were a teenager and had slumber/sleep over parties with your girlfriends or the guys?  You had games like whoever fell asleep first awoke in the morning to a frozen bra or some such nonsense. My Daddy would shake his head at us "gaggy girls" as he called us. We talk about everything...mostly boys, gossip, movie idols, and just stuff.

Light 'cause we were counting calories
 Even when I turned thirty, my adopted sister whose birthday was a week after mine, had a different type of slumber party. A get drunk and be miserable slumber party to commemorated the end of our youth. We ordered a large Domino "garbage" pizza, a pizza with everything thing on it, and then dousing it with hot sauce before taking the first bite. We ran out of beer at some point and went to the store for more. No, we didn't drive... we walked. We were two sheets in the wind by that point, being thirty we knew better than to operate a motor vehicle while intoxicated. The clerk at the store bagged our 24-pack and rang us up. My sister had to beg him to card her. Yes, it was truly an end of an era for us.  Now at 60, I get carded at the grocery store when I buy wine for my roommate and her cat. I have grandchildren old enough to legally drink alcohol. Go figure. I guess I don't look my age or something.
This week has been a long one. Mainly due to lack of sleep for both of us. I wish I could say we were having fun, but I can't. Mel was having one of her insomnia jags, She's had these since her TBI (traumatic brain injury) as a child. The longest she's stayed awake, since I've been here, is four days. She'll try all her usual things to sleep that doesn't involve medicating herself. She will usually collapse from exhaustion after that. Then she'll have her regular seven-hour sleep schedule back until the next time.

For me, it's been a combination of things. I've really been in a funk all summer. My stroke anniversary was compounded by the waiting for surgery dates. ARGH! Don't let me get started on this again. The anniversaries of my beloved's and my mother's deaths have really hit me hard this year. Fibromyagia and arthritis flares compounded by two ill fitting AFOs, and having to switch back and forth between them is getting old.

I missed my last therapy appointment meaning my pain levels have increased to the point of almost the screaming memes. I mean I stopped going once a week to save insurance points which was optimal for pain relief to go every two weeks for marginal pain relief. By the time I get in there again a month will have passed. It's my own fault, but still it's painful.

It's hard to find a comfortable sleeping position when my foot is inwardly cocked at 30+ degrees and one arm is glued to my chest because of the spasticity. Because of the arm being locked in this position, my shoulders, neck, and spine muscles are all pulled into horrible angles trying to compensate. So when the cramping spasms start, there is no sleeping. My sleeping schedule is nodding off while watching television or at the computer. It's a viscous cycle of 20-30 minute nod offs snatched from my pain.

My Valium and pain medicine (Tramadol) have failed me. I don't need possible seizures added to my long list of problems. I refuse to go on a higher dose of both of them. My previous drug addiction issues not withstanding, I just refuse. I only use them when absolutely necessary to begin with.  I mean 30 tablets of each will last me six months to a year. That's how sparingly I was taking them. Not so much now, I've gone through an entire prescription in two months trying to reduce my pain enough to sleep. I took them only as a last resort, but even so I'm not sleeping like I shouldn't continues. I've opted for a higher doses of my Cymbalta, Baclofen and Dantrolene instead with a renewal of all their side effects. I'm now at the maximum prescribed dose on all three.

Does it sound like I'm whining? I'm just tired. This is the downside of living post stroke. All I know is this can't continue.

Nothing is impossible.

Sunday, August 12, 2018

Sunday Stroke Survival: The Pity Pot

Are you on the self-pity pot again?! I'm on again and off again these days. It seems that nothing is going my way again. I kick myself from time to time about my first stroke. Especially when I read statistics like 80% of all ischemic strokes are preventable.

Did I really do this to myself? Why did I play Russian Roulette with my way of life? Didn't I know that my combined family history was slap full with other relatives with this catastrophic condition? Didn't I know the risk factors like obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes, and smoking? Yes, I sure did. So why am I kicking myself six years later? I asked for it, didn't I? I sure wasn't living the 20%.

Hindsight is 20/20. I can really do a number on myself when I get in this kind of mood. So why am I sitting on the pity pot. I got what I deserved, didn't I? But even people who don't have these risk factors have strokes. There is only so much medicine can do after the fact and every day that passes the odds of recovery slips a little farther away.

Normally, I can get outside and do something, but it's really rainy and wet right now. Too wet to do anything even in the breaks between hard showers. We are going on the third day of rain here which makes matters worse. I've already completed 99% of the busy work that needs done so my brain slips into the doldrums. I used to write away on rainy days. That ability is gone. That's my problem, a too active brain. Without activities to keep me occupied, my thoughts turn inward. My favorite/most hated boredom pastime is kicking myself when I'm down. Nobody does it better than I can. Isn't that true for most of us? Living post stroke is so much fun, isn't it? Everyone needs extra challenges in their lives. Let's have some real fun and have a stroke, or two, or if you are a real overachiever like me...three.

Depressed yet? Me too.

Snap out of it, Jo! Your readers want solutions, up beat blogs, and inspiration.

Okay, what can I say here. Hm, zero, zip, zilch is coming to me. I'm thinking harder. The rain is good for the garden. It has rained in a week, and you did say it needed to rain instead of having to water it all. No? Hmm, thinking harder. You could talk about how much your back ached picking 10 lbs of bush green beans this week and how you should have planted them in an elevated raised bed to make it easier. No, readers are tired of reading about the garden. Hmmm, thinking of another subject. How delicious your Cherokee tomatoes were that you sliced for dinner the other night. No, that's more gardening stuff. Something about surviving and living post stroke.

Nope. Nothing comes to mind. Well, I tried. Sorry y'all. The weather report shows these showers moving off tomorrow. Thank God! Nothing like getting out into sunshine to get off the pity pot for me. In the mean time, I'm going to get up and do the 1% I haven''t done yet... put clean sheets on my bed, and put on some music and dance with the vacuum cleaner a bit. If nothing else, I'll start tomorrow with a clean slate.

Nothing is impossible.

Sunday, August 5, 2018

Sunday Stroke Survival: Canning Post Stroke, My Take

I've always been an avid food preserver. I was proud of the way I was providing for my family and saving money at the same time. My pantry, under the beds, and even closets were full of food stuff I needed. This was especially true when I had little ones around. Every penny saved counted.

After the children were grown, my thinking partially shifted to the importance of not eating genetically modified foods, over fertilized and pesticized foods  and additives. My allergies wouldn't allow it. Not that this wasn't important for my growing children, but it was more about quantity versus quality. GMOs didn't exist when my children were growing up. Oh heck, that still didn't come out right, but you know what I mean, right?

Canning is easier these days without kids at home. First, there are no distractions. No seeing where the children are before lifting the lid or moving hot jars. No "Whatcha doing? Can I help." No squabbling about "John's piece of peach is bigger than mine!" !"or "Eww! there's skin on mine" I had some strange kids, but I loved it. They would forego the dessert bar and head for the fruit bar in restaurants with no prompting from me. Except for maybe ice cream, they preferred fresh fruit. Now, the vegetables or fruits that I can may have little pieces of skin left on them. I'm not so careful peeling anything so every smidgen of edible product goes into the jar. If the size of the cuts are different who really cares. We are all adults here.

Organic foods were very pricey and hard to come by so I gardened. I knew where my food came from and how they were grown. It would be heirloom or organically grown without scarcity or high price, and it was healthy for all of us. But, I had to eat without having severe allergic reactions. Canning, dehydrating, and freezing only made sense and cents. I still got hormones and stuff from meat products, but it didn't overload my histamines with the organic vegetables. At least, it was marginally successful. It's hard when you are not allergic to only strawberries, corn, and pine but show allergic tendencies to everything else.

Fast forward to today, I still organic garden. I still preserve my own food. When you garden it's a  feast or famine type of existence unless you preserve your harvest. But living post stroke has its challenges in this area, but not over not impossible.

It takes extra steps to can vegetables and meats. Pressure canners are heavy and lifting it one-handed while empty is a cumbersome process, but once it's on the stove, it gets easier. I'll set up my canner and assorted pots the night before a canning day. This way I'm not having to expend energy on canning days. During the summer and fall harvest times, my canner lives on my stove empty or full.

Canning day  step by step...
  1. The day before-Gather canning supplies- pots on the stove, prep as many vegetables as I can. Fill the required amounts of liquid in the canner and pots. My 23-qt pressure canner takes 2 gallons of water to get the required 2"-3" water level. Now my water bath canner takes 5 gallons. That's a lot of back and forth to the faucet. But there is no way I can lift the canners with water in them one- handed. Not without spilling water everywhere.
  2. Put jars, rings, and lids in my dishwasher. Mine is an older model and it takes 2 hours to run a full cycle with drying time.
  3. Continue prepping vegetables to can. This can take an hour to half a day depending on the recipe and amounts to be canned.
  4. Gather all the other canning supplies ladles, measuring cups and spoons, canning funnel, air debubblers stick (a wooden chopstick), and magnetic lid lifter. Pour vinegar (3 ozs) into my Mom's Japanese tea cup to clean rims with. The balance of this vinegar will be poured into the canner to soften any minerals in the water. About two or more paper towel folded to clean the rims with. Gather any spices or herbs that I need for the recipe. Double check my math when I'm halving or quadrupling the recipe.
  5. Make my brine or fluid mixture and cook it as necessary. I make two recipes worth at a time for large batch canning.
  6. If I'm small batching water bath canning, I'll use my largest pot for up to six jars instead of my enamel water bath canner. For my water bath canner I've replaced the rack with a standard rack. It's easier to lift each jar out one at a time instead of how I'd have to lift on handle of the canning rack and then do the other side.The jars don't tilt and they seal better. The canner will hold 12 jars instead of 7. I have used the standard canning rack and lifted and lowered the rack with a long 1" dowel rod, but this way is easier.
  7. Process and removing jars from canner.
  8. Cleaning up is the reverse of the set up. All small ware:measuring cups and spoons, canning equipment, bowls or buckets for ingredients, etc wash first. There isn't a dishwasher made except commercial ones that can handle canners so this will be washed by hand after emptying the canner water out one jug at a time. Dry and put away until next time.
The prep work and canning take twice as long working one-handed. I was lamenting to my roommate
that it took me all day Friday to do 18 pint jars of sliced peaches, when I could have done 18 qt jars before my stroke. All the peeling and slicing of the peaches (1/2 a bushel worth) took me 12 hours! She told me, "At least you could do it." Yes I did it. Talk about your words coming back to bite you on the hinny.

The next day, Saturday, I did 7 jars of zucchini pickle relish and 8 jars of bread and butter pickles. I put the cucumbers, zucchini, and bell peppers into the ice chest with salt, water and ice to hang out overnight. I prepped all the vegetables while I was canning the peaches. I chopped the Vidala onions, zucchini, and green pepper chunks to go into the relish while the pickles were in the water bath. The Vidala onions chopper to the rescue once again. I love my slap chopper. It made small dicing the 10 baby zucchini (4"-6" long), 2 Vidala onions and the pepper a breeze!

Then it was on to prep the bushel of green beans. I grow Provider bush green beans because they don't have strings. Just the idea of having to string green beans one-handed is stuff for nightmares for me. Prepping them is simply snapping off the ends and snapping them into pieces. Easy to do one-handed. The beans are thick and meaty versus the kind you find usually canned or find fresh in the grocery store. But after snapping the bushel ( 2-3 gallon buckets full of snaps) one-handed my fingers and thumb were sore. I ended up with 48 jars of green beans in my weekend canning session. With what I had in my pantry from last year, we can now eat green beans once a week for a harvest season. That's without me canning any more. It's only the beginning of the green bean harvest for the year. I'm hoping for eating green beans twice a week, but I doubt I'll reach my dreamed of goal.

Although it only takes 20 minutes to can green beans, they have to be pressure canned which means raising the temperature (15 minutes), vent steam for ten minutes, then, the pressure based on altitude (15 lbs of pressure for us -about 20 minutes), processing, and finally bringing the pressure back down again.After this last wait, two hours, the liquid in the jars is still boiling away. Remove the jars and start again for the next batch of 21 jars. I did 3 canner loads of green beans over the weekend. I never run a half filled canner. I'll fill the space with soaked dried beans or other vegetable.

After the jars sit on the breakfast room table for twenty-four hours, I'll remove the retaining rings, wash each jar, label it, and put them back into their original boxes for Mel to carry out to the pantry. While I could do this, I make Mel work for her food. LOL I now use Avery freeware to print my labels on the jars instead of hand writing with a Sharpie because I want to read it months from now. I'll add the jars to Mel's inventory program so I can keep track of what I've processed. Then I'm done until next time.

The next huge canning day will be tomatoes. I see at least a bushel worth hanging on the plants now,Tomato sauce and canned tomatoes here I come, Then it's BBQ sauce, sloppy Joe's sauce, pizza sauce, salsa, and Ketchup. Oh boy!

Nothing is impossible.