So...where have I been??

Thursday, January 13, 2011

I don't really like to blog about my health. I figure it's like when someone asks, "How have you been?" - they expect you to say, "Fine, thanks - and how have you been?" - they don't really want to hear about all of your problems. However, since I've been MIA so much lately, I thought I'd let you guys know what's happening.

I've mentioned that I take blood pressure and cholesterol-lowering meds. I also have a history of neck problems - I had surgery for 2 herniated disks in 1989. The surgery was successful, but I occasionally have muscle spasms in my neck & shoulder. Nothing major - just annoying. About 5-6 weeks ago, I started having more pain in my neck, right shoulder, and right thumb. I saw my regular doctor and he prescribed a 4-day course of a muscle relaxant and a 10-day course of an anti-inflammatory. After a week, the pain had worsened, so he sent me to an orthopedic surgeon. By this time, I was also having weakness in my right arm, along with numbness & tingling in the middle, ring, & little fingers of my right hand. I was having so much pain that I couldn't sleep at night. The orthopedic doctor did an x-ray in the office, and based on that, ordered an MRI & physical therapy. Even though I told her that the pain was so bad that I couldn't sleep, she didn't bother to order anything for pain. I was not pleased with her at all. Luckily, when I called my regular doctor again, he ordered some pain meds for me. Since this was just a few days before Christmas, I decided to wait to set up the physical therapy, but I scheduled the MRI.

The more I thought about it, the more I became unhappy with the orthopedic doctor. I really liked (and trusted) the neurosurgeon who did my surgery in 1989, so I decided to give his office a call. I had the MRI, he looked at it that same day - and called me back to set up an appointment for 2 days later. At this point, I still hadn't heard from the orthopedic doctor - even though she was the one who ordered the MRI, and she would've received a copy of it - and she had no idea I had contacted the neurosurgeon. By the time I saw the neurosurgeon, my symptoms were even worse. In addition to all of the other symptoms, I now had weakness in my left arm with numbness & tingling in the last three fingers on my left hand. I could barely lift either of my arm and I was just exhausted.

The neurosurgeon was puzzled by my exam. The MRI showed a bone spur at the C4-5 level pinching the nerve - and that accounted for the neck & shoulder pain. But there was nothing at the C7-8 level - which is the level that would affect my arms & fingers. He ordered some bloodwork to check for arthritis, etc. and started me on Decadron (a steroid). He also ordered an EMG to check for nerve problems in my right arm/hand.

Over the next 3-4 days, I continued to get worse. It took every ounce of energy I had to get out of bed to go to the bathroom. My stomach hurt and I couldn't eat. I could barely talk because I was so weak. I almost had Gus take me to the hospital - and in retrospect, I probably should have done just that. I stopped taking the Decadron, thinking that it was the most recent med, so maybe it was causing problems. I had only been taking half of a pain pill at bedtime, but I stopped that, too. Unfortunately, I continued to get worse.

Then I started to wonder if perhaps it was the cholesterol med causing problems. The doctor had doubled my dose about 10-14 days before all of these problems started. I had problems in the past with statins prescribed for cholesterol - but it caused joint pain in my hips & legs. But I decided to stop taking the cholesterol med. After the first couple of days, the numbness & tingling stopped. After about 4 days, my arms weren't weak anymore. After a week, I was able to eat and the stomach pain & shakiness stopped. From Jan. 1 through Jan. 10, I was virtually bedridden & unable to care for myself. All because of this cholesterol med. I knew what signs/symptoms to watch for, but since they sort of went along with the disk problems, I didn't recognize what was happening.

Now I'm back to just having pain in my neck, right shoulder, right bicep, and right thumb. It's a relief really. I almost embrace this pain, LOL. I still think that I may have a couple of things going on - the cervical disk and possibly carpal tunnel (because the disk doesn't account for the thumb pain). I'm having an EMG tomorrow, and I also see the neurosurgeon again, so I should know more then. Once I get that all figured out, I need to call my regular doctor and tell him what happened. I have no idea how we're going to treat my high cholesterol but I just can't take any more statin drugs. I've tried all of the vitamins/minerals/supplements and diet/exercise - but none of that seems to help.

Oh - and I still haven't heard from the orthopedic doctor. Not that I have any intention of seeing her again - but she never even called to give me the MRI results. Thank goodness I had enough sense to take my healthcare into my own hands. And speaking of that - when the neurosurgeon ordered Decadron for me, he put me on decreasing doses with a total of 40 pills. When I picked up the prescription from Walgreens, it said to take 4 pills/day for 2 days, 3 pills/day for 4 days, 2 pills/day for 4 days - which totals 28 pills. I thought it was pretty odd that the prescription ended with taking 2 pills/day and not 1 pill daily - plus why would I have 12 pills left over? I called the pharmacy and the pharmacist (yes, it was the pharmacist) said that she thought it was odd when she filled that - and now that she was looking at the prescription, she thought it might have an additional line that said to take 1 pill daily, so yeah, I should just go ahead and do that. WTF?? Isn't it the pharmacist's responsibility to call the dr. and verify the prescription?? Now I'm seriously thinking that I need to find a new pharmacy, too.

Beware and be aware. Never trust your health blindly to someone else. Read, research - ask questions. You may be the only one who can save you!

ETA: I forgot to add that just as I started to feel better, I ended up with shingles on my scalp (for the 4th time). Most people only get shingles once, but not lucky me! Fun times, LOL!


E said...

Wow, I'm sorry you had to go to through all of this. I really hope you start feeling better soon!

Kim said...

Thanks, E!