Friday, May 20, 2016

May-Hem Part Three

Ok, hard to believe I'm back again so soon, but today was one of 'those' days in what appears to be an endless month, and I need to share.  Well, maybe share isn't the right word, I guess vent would be more accurate.

After a restless night's sleep, I woke up feeling not-so-hot.  I was started on antibiotics for Lyme disease in April, so a month has gone by already. I haven't noticed too many problems with the medication; mostly a bit of nausea that lingers for an hour or so, and migraines.  I'm on a waiting list for a trial IV therapy, but so far, no appointment has been set.  After calling my doctor's office today I was told the earliest I can expect to begin treatment would be August because of a long, long waiting list.  Lots of people have Lyme disease, sadly.  So for now, I wait.  (And take my meds.  See, Mom's not the only one who has to take pills.  I keep telling her this, too.)

The pain in the butt syndrome I was (and am) experiencing was such a fiasco. I hate going to doctors, I'm not usually a hypochondriac of such epic proportions, but after having so much trouble from October to February, I gave up trying the home remedies.  I went to my general practitioner in February right after Mom came home from the hospital, and had a lovely 'bend over' exam.  The doctor thought it looked like hemorrhoids, and prescribed some suppositories to be filled at our local pharmacy.  At last, relief!  

I found to my dismay that my pain in the butt would soon be replaced by a pain in the wallet; the suppositories, twenty of them, came to $240.  Wow.  That was a shock, but I was desperate for relief.  Our insurance is dismal; we have a very high deductible which makes all of these purchases, treatments and exams out of pocket expenses for us.

I paid the high price for the suppositories and hoped I'd soon be on the mend.  Except I wasn't.  Ok, there was a refill on the prescription, maybe it takes more than ten days to heal.  This time I shopped around for prescriptions and was stunned to find the refill from a different pharmacy was only $36.   Made no sense to me how the same exact medication could cost so much less the second time around (no, it wasn't a generic) but I wasn't going to argue.  I went home with my second ten day supply.

And ten days later, still no relief.  I called my GP again.  Another bend over exam, this time on my birthday in March, and another prescription for the same suppositories.  Remembering what happened the last time with the price differences, I asked for a prescription I could take with me instead of having it faxed to the pharmacy.  

When I got home from the doctor, I called around for prices, well, guess what?  The same prescription that ten days ago cost me $36 would now cost me $676 for twenty suppositories.  Yes, we're talking butt suppositories.  Not pure gold, diamond encrusted pellets; just hydrocortisone.  I asked the pharmacist about the price, and she said yes, she knew it was outrageous, but the prices are determined by supply and demand.  (There must be a lot of people out there with sore behinds.) 

I called four other pharmacies before finally ending up at Wal-Mart who would agree to let me use a discount pharmacy card (I have no idea how those things work, you don't pay anything or sign on the dotted line) and the bill would be $360-ish, but with the card, I could get it for I think, $138, if I remember correctly.  Which I probably don't, but anyway, on with the story.

Another ten days of suppositories, no relief.  Sitz baths, epsom salts, special seat cushions, standing as much as possible; let's put it this way, I still had a pain in the butt.  Back to the GP, who began to suspect it was maybe more than hemorrhoids, maybe it was the pilonidal cyst I'd had surgery on in 1982 making a most unwelcome reappearance.   I was horrified to hear that diagnosis; the recovery from that surgery was the worst thing I've ever had happen to me.  I didn't want a repeat. 

All of this was going on during and after Mom's stay in the hospital, too, which was worrisome, what if I couldn't take care of her?  Then what?

My GP referred me to a gastroenterologist, but I couldn't get in for two weeks.  In the meantime, I made an appointment with a surgeon who specializes in pilonidal cyst surgery whose practice is in Eau Claire, a good three and a half hour drive from home.  I'd read he was the best, and I wasn't going to trust having a second surgery on my tailbone to a doctor who didn't have as much experience.  (I looked at pilonidal surgeries on Youtube, not a good idea, by the way.  No wonder it took so long to heal thirty years ago, not for the faint of heart.)

Carl took a day off of work and off we went to Eau Claire, because apparently I'm not happy until I show off my derriere to all the doctors in the state of Wisconsin......anyway....after an exam, the specialist said he could see no outward evidence of any pilonidal cyst reactivation.  The only way to be sure would be surgery, but he felt there was no cause for alarm.  He said I would qualify for plastic surgery of the scar tissue which might make sitting and walking more comfortable for me in the future, but that was up to me.

I thanked the doctor and we left, relieved it wasn't a cyst again.  We can't afford plastic surgery, and even if we could, it wouldn't be on THAT part of my anatomy.  (Bill: $368)

My next stop two weeks later was with the gastroenterologist (they charge more for the extra letters in their specialty, by the way) who also gave me a less than one minute exam and said, "Nope, you don't have external hemorrhoids, maybe you have internal ones.  You'll need to see a colon-rectal surgeon."  (Bill: $240)

A week wait and there I was again, dropping trousers in the colon-rectal doctor's office who also declared me blissfully internally hemorrhoid free.  (Bill: $430)

The colon-rectal surgeon's diagnosis was 'ani levator syndrome'.   His referral was to a pelvic pain specialist/therapist who was booked up until the end of April.  Ok, well, I've lived with this misery this long, what's another coupla weeks?  
Maidenhair fern unfurling

By this time I had to go back to see my Lyme literate MD in Oshkosh which is about 40 minutes from home on April 22.  When I told him what doctors I'd seen and what the next step was he told me to wait until I was treated for Lyme and see if my problem improves.  Physical therapy would be probably quite expensive too, and may not help either.  As he put it, "The therapists will always be there if you think you need them."  I'm hopeful after the IV treatments (ten of them at $200+ a piece once a week for ten weeks)  I won't need physical 'butt' therapy.  My advice: Do Not Get Bitten By a Lyme disease-Carrying Woodtick. 

So that's where I'm at with that whole mess; it's not as bad as it was, but I'm doing a whole lot less sitting this time of year, too, with the gardening.  Maybe that's the solution, Never Sit, Always Stand?  

 Anyway, on to Thursday's dilemma (which was yesterday already since the clock struck midnight), I went up to Mom's and gave her medication to her.  And we went through the counting routine again; but I jumped in before she could say she didn't want to take her medication and successfully distracted her with tales of the garden and goings on around the farm.  The meds went down, phew.

At noon I left Mom's and grabbed leftover soup for lunch.  As soon as I was done eating out the door I went to mow lawn.  We haven't had much rain but the lawn has been growing by leaps and bounds.  Carl has been taking time off the past two weeks to work with me on getting the gardens weeded and reducing a bunch of large miscanthus clumps down to a reasonable size.  On Tuesday and Wednesday Carl and I rebuilt the back hill of the Quarry Bypass with all new stone (which looks much better!) but he had to work on Thursday, so I took the opportunity of him being gone to get the lawn mowing done for the weekend here and at Mom's house.

The lawn mower is a 15 year old zero turning radius machine we've had since 2001.  It doesn't seem that old to us, but alas, it is.  Last summer it broke down while I was mowing; a lot of blue smoke and barely able to move forward.  Oh, dear.

David came to our rescue last summer; he and his friend, Mike, who is good with motors, found the problem was a bent push rod.  After replacing the rod, the mower was good to go and go it did, all last summer and for one mowing this year.

A garden can be weedy, but a well-manicured lawn makes all the difference in a landscape; I was looking forward to mowing the lawn.     I'm obsessive with checking the oil, you get like that when you grow up on a farm; you never drive a tractor without checking the oil.  All the fluids looked great, no problems, and an added plus, the mower even started easily.  

I was blissfully mowing away when I noticed the engine was bogging down a bit.  Well, the grass was long, maybe I need to slow down.  Nope, that didn't help much.  I managed to finish the back yard and part of the front when suddenly the motor died down to almost nothing, blue smoke billowing.  I quickly turned off the deck and hit the off switch.  

Smoke started rising all around me, oh, no!  Time to bail out!  I headed for the Pachyberm and watched with bated breath as my beloved mower started to smoke even more from the oil dripping on the muffler housing.  I wouldn't have been too surprised to have a 'Hollywood ending' for my poor machine, I was half expecting it to explode or at least catch on fire, which it thankfully did not.  

I sat on one of the big rocks and watched until the smoke cleared and I was sure the coast was clear.  There wouldn't be any theatrics involved, but my heart was just as heavy.  Darn it.  Now what?  

Just as I was trudging back to the house, Carl drove in with a five gallon pail full of koi fish for our pond from our friend, Ellen.  He was so happy to show me the fish but then it was my turn to share the bad news.  

Carl took the engine apart and found out the rocker arm housing had broken apart.  Well, maybe we can get lucky and find parts to repair it online like last year when David and Mike fixed it.  The mower has 924 hours on it (wow, I mowed a lot the last fifteen years, ha), but it's an industrial model, built to withstand a lot of use.

We were hot on the trail of replacement parts when suddenly my laptop went black and an announcement popped up, Windows 10 was being installed on my computer.  I'd been avoiding the update for months at the advice of my tech savvy sons, but now time must be running out and the decision was taken out of my control.  So there went our big screen laptop for a few hours.  I tried looking for parts on my cellphone, but geez Louise, I need a magnifying glass to read PDF files and exploded parts diagrams.  

Carl went to bed early out of frustration, and I don't blame him.  My computer wouldn't reboot after the upgrade and after three hours I resorted to going online on my phone looking for 'what to do when your laptop has a black screen and won't load anything'.  The instructions were all too technical for me, until I found one that said to 'unplug anything plugged into your computer and shut it down.  Then remove the battery from your laptop and wait a bit.  Put it back in, hit the start button and see what happens.' 

It worked, thank goodness, but as I've been typing this post, every few minutes I lose the ability to type and have to use the mouse to get the cursor back where it belongs.  I hope I can figure out what's causing the problem, it's very annoying.  

So our recap of the day:

The mower sits in the driveway, mortally wounded. 

Our options are:

1. Buy a new lawn mower.  (Expensive, $5K and up for what we have now and we have a $10K plus septic tank bill facing us this year, plus my mess of medical bills.)
2. Buy a new motor only.  (Possibly around $1K, maybe less, if I can find one somewhere...)
3. Buy a used motor we found near Milwaukee (135 miles one way) for $50 on Craigslist that doesn't run, but is 'good' for parts.  Maybe.
4. Buy a push mower.  A solution?  My exercise needs would be met, I wouldn't be sitting on my butt; it's five acres of mowing sometimes twice a week between our house and Mom's plus parts of the Back Eight I keep short for walking paths.  I guess it would work, but I won't get any other yard work done. 
5. Let the whole yard go to the Prairie Look.
6. Get a goat.  (Wait, we tried that one year, it didn't work. 'Goater Goat' was sassy and only wanted to run around on the rocks and eat hostas.  And the aforementioned foam rubber lawn mower seat cushion.)

Now I'm all ranted out, and I haven't shown one wedding photo because the computer is still being bucky and I don't understand Windows 10 yet.....wait..........we might have one...
Abby and Joel, June 2015

 There will be more to come, I promise, just as soon as I can get this computer to cooperate.  

Now I'm off to bed before something else goes wrong.









FlowerLady Lorraine said...

Oh my gosh Karen ~ My problems seem tiny compared to yours. I sure hope you get some relief from all of your health issues SOON.

You've got me in the mood to mow. :-)

Love & hugs ~ FlowerLady

Alison said...

I need to stop whining about my own health problems. Somehow you have kept going through all your recent misery. Kudos to you. I hope you eventually get sorted out.