Friday, May 27, 2005

Better Living Through Chemistry

I came out of the hospital, and one of the pills the doctors gave me to use if I needed it was Oxycontin. I didn't realize that was highly desirable as a narcotic--a recent TV news report said they sold for $26 a pill on the street (as of Nov., 2005, they were selling for $80, with the next step up being heroin)--but didn't want to take anything other than Tylenol/acetominophen.

When I went into the doctor's Monday, he asked if I'd been having any pain. I told him, "Not much. I take a Tylenol when I have some. In fact, I haven't even taken any of those Oxymorons you gave me."

He told me I should get some earwax remover to get my left ear canal open. My last run-in with that stuff left me in pain: the bottle was the same size and shape as the eyedrops I'd been given. Within minutes of returning from the hospital after my operation, I had grabbed that bottle and dropped some in my eye!

Sting? Boy, I'll say. I washed it out thoroughly, and my girlfriend raced me to the VA urgent care, where they washed it out some more. The doctor there assured me it hadn't done any permanent damage, and regaled me with a story about a woman who had put her fingernail glue in her eye. At least I didn't feel totally stupid...only mostly.

So be very careful when doing anything with your eyes. Paint the bottles different colors, if they are the same shape. You don't need permanent problems because of a mistake.

As for the blisters on my head, my girlfriend suggested I wipe them with essence of lavender. Just the essential oil. I did so, and the blisters appear to have disappeared. Wonderful stuff.

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Some good news.

At least there's some good news today: I got back the hearing in my left ear. It's not perfect, but any note in a storm.

That's balanced by what appears to be small blisters on my head, and into my left ear. Might it be the reoccurrence of shingles? Lord, I hope not. Now I've got to make an appt. at the VA to see what it is. Bummer.

The final bill from the hospital--which the VA is working with me on--came to over $25K. That's for an operation, and three days in the hospital. Monday I did nothing but wait until it was time for the operation, Mon. night in the ICU, Tues. in the ward, and out Wed. It was almost $7K for the first day...and that didn't include the operation! Woof. Healthcare is out of sight.

Stay well. Stay fit. Stay lean. The doctor at the VA told me I was in better shape than a lot of 40 and 50 year olds, which may be one reason I healed so fast.

I just hope my nerve heals fast also.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

A Day After the Bad News.

A year, the doctor said yesterday, before I "might" get back full functionality from my facial nerves.

Today, he explained that nerves grow back at a rate of 1mm a day, and that I'd lost 80-100mm. To me, that means 2.5-3 months for regeneration. So perhaps a year is very conservative; I mean, I was teasing the nurses in the recovery room at the hospital within 15 minutes of coming out of the operating room. While I was in ICU, I didn't use morphine. And once I was in the wards, I only asked for acetominophen. Plus, they said most people were in the hospital 5-7 days, whereas I left the third day. My hope, of course, is that I'll heal as quickly.

I asked the doctor about various vitamins and minerals that could affect nerve growth. These included Citicoline, Retinoic Acid, and Nerve Growth Factor. The Bell's Palsy website suggested that B1, B6 and B12 were helpful, so I've been tailoring my diet toward those. Lots of fruits and vegetables, eggs, cheese, beans, etc. I don't know whether a diet supplement would help or not.

The doctor responded that he felt prayer was a better alternative than any vitamins or minerals. Of course, doctors don't usually pay a lot of attention to such things.

One website I have read suggested using heat on the affected nerves, to help them heal faster.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

This Treacher Body.

I woke up one morning in late April, and the left side of my face had developed a weird little quirk: it didn't quirk. It had gone numb. I couldn't blink. All the lines had disappeared from that side of my face (sort of a poor man's Botox), and my upper lip seemed to drift off to the right (since the muscles on the left had gone numb).

Smiling after the palsy.

(May, 2008. Three years later. My face has recovered somewhat, but my smile is still crooked.)

My left hand was alright, and I could walk normally, so I knew it wasn't a stroke. In fact, I had suffered something called Bell's Palsy (, an attack on my number 7 facial nerve by a virus--possibly chickenpox from when I was a kid, or perhaps herpes.

I'm 62, 6'3", and 205 pounds (when this started). I've always been blessed with splendid health, playing both volleyball and golf, walking, biking, etc. In fact, the last time I spent any time in a hospital was when I was 18 and in the Navy, and both times it was because of falls while roller skating. (Two front wheels rolled past me, and I wondered "What poor bastard..." at which point my toestop hit the floor and as I stretched out toward the hardwood I realized who the aforementioned poor bastard was.)

After a visit to Urgent Care at the VA hospital in Minneapolis, I was put on antibiotics. When I visited my primary care provider the next Tuesday, they immediately shipped me up to the fifth floor ward and put me on IVs. This was followed by an MRI, audiology, and the works.

Friday they let me out of the VA, with orders to return to a local hospital on Monday for a possible operation on my head. Monday I was put in the hospital and was operated on at 6:30p.m. It was quite the operation: they cut a 3.25" square in my head, lifted my brain, then drilled the nerve channel a little larger, and put Humpty together again. By 10 I was in recovery, spent the night in Intensive Care, and two more days in that hospital.

Here it is, two weeks after the operation. I have since had my left eye sewn mostly shut, to protect the cornea (after all, the eye doesn't blink). Next week I may get it glued shut, and the stitches removed. I wear a black patch, and look like a Pirate of the Caribbean (and because of the eye I can't drive).

My visit to the surgeon today resulted in learning it might take me up to a year to recover fully, if then. My hearing is off, possibly because of blood in the ear canal, as is my balance.

I've got invitations to two golf-related events I won't be able to get to now, but worse than that, I don't know how I can work. That will require negotiating the shoals of disability, unemployment insurance, perhaps early retirement.

So, this is the start of my odyssey. My body, reliable for so many years, let me down a little bit. My RVgolfing days appear to be taking a rest, as well.