Posts filed under ‘health’

I’m Still Here

My postings have been quite sporadic over these past two months. I seem to fill my week with an assortment of activities which either involve entertainment for my son in the form of trips to the playground and toddler classes or trips to medical professionals to help me with my newly diagnosed neuropathy.

I am grateful to all of my long time readers who left comments and sent emails about my illness. I was in a very dark place two months ago and your words lifted my spirits more than you could ever imagine. One evening my husband came up to check on me and I collapsed into a puddle of tears. I cursed my body, I cursed my health, my bad medical luck and mumbled more obscenities then I had spoken in years.

I’ve had my fair share of medical problems in the past and I was unprepared for the toil of emotions that washed over me when I was diagnosed with this new problem.

For a long time I viewed my body as broken. When I became pregnant with my son I found a renewed sense of self. A belief that my body was capable of more than I had ever given it credit for. I was one of those women who loved being pregnant. Sure I had aches and pains and other issues, but I was amazed that a child was growing within me. I walked around the house naked and stared at my reflection in the mirror.

Two and a half years after my son’s birth I remained in good health. The aches and pains that bothered me for years were gone. When I was unexpectedly hit with neuropathy as a result of antibiotics I felt robbed. Robbed of the joy I felt chasing my son around the playground. Robbed of the pain free life I had lived for the past five years. As a result I cursed God and everything else around me.

Oh sure I tried to count my blessings. I listed the things that were wonderful about my life and even listed the things that could be so much worse, but all in all I still felt horribly depressed.

My hands and feet burned like someone placed them on the stove burners, electric shocks ran through them and my legs felt like they were being crushed in a vice. It was pain like I had never experienced before and certainly not in so many places in my body at once.

Thankfully my symptoms have improved. Though my feet are still painful my hands seem to have improved. The burning and shock like sensations have decreased on disappeared almost entirely. My feet still ache but the pain is tolerable though unpleasant.

I did not take the drug prescribed to me by my neurologist. I did take the B vitamins he prescribed along with a host of other more natural solutions like acupuncture and massage. My acupuncturist believes my condition will continue to improve though she is uncertain if I will ever be fully cured.

During this time I have continued to live my life. I’ve had a few major breakdowns at night, but every morning I wake up renewed. I continue to take my son on adventures and move through life as though my legs and feet don’t bother me. Distraction may be the best medicine as when I’m excited and happy my pain dissipates ever so slightly.

I do believe everything happens for a reason and although I cannot imagine what lesson I am supposed to learn from this course of events I am doing my best to reflect on my life and the things that are important to me. My husband has asked me to focus on my mental well being. He bought me a journal and asked me to meditate. It is in those quiet moments of reflection that I feel truly grateful for all that I have and remind myself that my life is truly amazing.

April 5, 2014 at 6:03 PM 3 comments

$1500 Slipped Through My Hands

In the past four weeks I spent over $1500 on treatments to cure neuropathy caused by antibiotics! Here is a snapshot of those costs.

  • $45 – Reiki Treatment
  • $55 – Therapeutic Massage
  • $150 – Acupuncture Consultation and First Treatment
  • $85 – Acupuncture Treatment
  • $85 – Acupuncture Treatment
  • $255 – Another Acupuncture Consultation and First Treatment
  • $110 – Acupuncture Treatment with Second Acupuncturist
  • $300 – Five Therapeutic Massage Treatments
  • $178.95 – Three Months Worth of Vitamins
  • $30 – Copay to Neurologist
  • $157.48 – General Practitioner Appointment
  • $21.03 – Blood work
  • $3.29 – Blood work

That doesn’t include additional supplements and vitamins. My neurologist wanted to put me on Lyrica which would’ve cost about $50 a month. That would have been a much cheaper route to take, but the drug wouldn’t have cured me. It simply would have masked my pain. I’m crossing my fingers that my health will be restored back to normal. If that occurs it will be worth every penny I paid.

March 26, 2014 at 5:13 PM 1 comment

The Power of Money When You Are Sick

I have so many thoughts swimming in my head these days and seem to find so little time to type them into my computer. As I mentioned a few weeks ago I’ve been struggling with medical problems that resulted from antibiotics. I won’t lie. The condition is painful and I’m having a difficult time concentrating on anything other than not feeling well.

I have a lot of pain in my legs and feet while I’m sleeping and I typically wake up quite grumpy and blah. For the first four or five minutes I think “Why me?”, “Why am I stuck with another medical problem?”, “Why am I the 1% for anything that can go wrong in the human body.” By the time I step into the shower I start counting the reasons I feel grateful. “At least this won’t kill me.”, “I’ve dealt with more painful problems.”, “At least I’m the one suffering, not my son.”

The rest of my day has it’s ups and downs depending on my level of pain. Sometimes I cry for absolutely no reason. Other times I turn up the music, chase my son around the house and do my best to forget all my troubles. I waver back and forth between feeling grateful and pitying myself. I am hoping and praying that my condition is temporary. I’m trying to convince myself that I’m only thirty-six and that my body has plenty of time to bounce back from this.  Somedays I’m more successful than others.

Medicine and medical care are unbelievably expensive. The vitamin prescription my neurologist called in cost $168 for a thirty day supply. I was in such shock at the pharmacy that I had to ask the clerk to repeat the number. Luckily there is a cheaper option through Brand Direct. They charged me $175 for a three month supply. That adds up to $58 a month, which is still a lot of money, but much easier to swallow.

My visit to the general practitioner ended up costing me $177. The blood work was an additional $23. The bill before insurance paid was $690. Nearly $700 for a small vial of blood and six different tests. I haven’t received the bill from my neurologist and need an expensive test performed a week from now. I would guess it will cost around $1000.

The doctor prescribed a medication for pain, but I am reluctant to take it. After all drugs got me into this predicament in the first place. Instead I’ve been researching alternative treatments. Everything from TENS machines to acupuncturists. I found a few promising studies about deep laser therapy and hope to give that a try as well.

Medication would certainly be the cheaper option, but medicine won’t cure me, at this point it will only mask the pain. I’m hopeful there is an alternative solution that might actually mend my nerves. Otherwise I’m looking at a lifetime of prescriptions.

Acupuncture sessions cost $110 each. Deep laser therapy can cost upwards of $200. I’m glad that my finances are stable, because when you are sick you don’t want to worry about money.

I’m definitely willing to throw money at this problem. Every time I come across a possible home solution I click on Amazon and begin searching.

I’ve been in this predicament before. This is not the first time I’ve experienced a painful condition, which is crazy because these two issues are completely unrelated. The last time I was ill I wasted money on things that weren’t working. I spent thousands of dollars on a physical therapist that wasn’t helping.

Eventually I gave up on him and went in search of other alternatives. A few months later I found an amazing massage therapist who is worth more than double the $45 she charges. In the beginning I visited her two to three times a week, but after weeks of amazing work I was able to cut back to just once a month and then went two years without requiring a single visit.

I’m hopeful that I will find a similar solution this time around. The key is to find an expert. I have my hopes set on a former neurologist turned acupuncturist. I’m praying to God that she can help me.

March 8, 2014 at 5:04 PM 5 comments

Hitting the Pause Button

Pause Button

In 2006 new management took over the company where I worked. Within a few short months the HR department was handed a big fat check and directed to spend it on sensitivity training. I welcomed the excuse to miss work for two days. I was a shell of an employee. I had just returned to my job after a five month absence. Five long, torturous months after surgery I walked into the building a shadow of my former self. I felt broken. My twenty-seven year old body had betrayed me and I was struggling to come to terms with my health and my future.

Five months is a long time to be away from work. During my absence my manager was replaced, members of my team moved on to other projects and my cubicle was occupied by a new employee. On my first day back I had no where to sit. My stuff sat in boxes in the corner of a coworker’s cube.

When a friend stopped by to say hello an employee on the other side of my cubicle shushed me. I was telling a very emotional story about my first trip to the emergency room. I was already on the verge of tears and just wanted to shrink into a little ball and disappear.

I don’t remember much about those training sessions. I remember that it occurred offsite. I remember that my arm still ached and my heart throbbed. I remember that I fought to hold back tears as we listened to guided meditation and my thoughts began to run amok in my mind, but I don’t remember much about what I learned or how it was supposed to make me a better employee.

Most of my coworkers didn’t want to be there, but they really didn’t want to be attending to their weekly tasks either. Who wants to sit in a cubicle all day? Who wants to stare at a computer screen? Who wants to sit through endless meetings? Not many.

The majority of participants went through the motions of listening and responding, but I remember being fully awake and alive during those sessions. It was there that I learned about the pause button. In essence, the need to halt your words and emotions. We learned how to quiet our minds and hearts to be fully present in the moment; to reflect on what was being said by someone else and how those words made us feel before reacting to them.

It has been a long time since I attended those training sessions, but I still employ this technique whenever I feel overwhelmed. I try my best to quiet my mind and my mouth before reacting; sometimes I am more successful than other times.

A week and a half ago I suffered unexpected effects from a course of antibiotics. The side effects of the medication left my body aching and my heart quite pained. It’s one of those side effects that is only supposed to happen to 1% of the population and I happen to be in that lucky 1%. I have dealt with my fair share of medical complications before and do not wish to relive any of it. I wanted to scream and cry. I’ll be honest I did a lot of both of things, but ultimately I hit the pause button and reflected on the situation.

I am still alive. Although this is extremely painful it will not kill me. I am ill but still able to care for my son. I am still capable of walking and talking even if it pains me. I am grateful for all that I have. I am thankful for a husband that will support me through these medical complications just as he supported me through my previous medical hurdles. Did I mention that I am thankful and grateful?

I still want to curse and scream and say why me, but there are many worse things that could happen and in the big scheme of medical conditions this is certainly not the worst to have. I can choose to continue on with life. To find things to be happy about and to hope that this too shall pass. My neurologist seems quite hopeful that the side effects are temporary.

Perhaps as much as I am pressing the pause button on my own thoughts and fears a higher power is pushing the pause button for me. If nothing else being ill or caring for someone with an illness puts all of the little things back into perspective. All of those little piddly annoyances in life are no longer a big deal.

You can choose to mope about a situation or press on. Although the pause button was pressed for me it does not mean life will not carry on.

February 27, 2014 at 8:32 AM Leave a comment

Does a High Deductible Health Insurance Plan Make You More Reluctant to Visit a Doctor?

Last January I sat on the couch with three large insurance documents spread out across my computer screen. Should I choose an HMO or PPO? Should I opt for a high deductible insurance plan or pay up front for everything in the form of higher premiums? I have to admit I was overwhelmed with details.

With a very complicated medical history I wanted to make certain my family and I have solid coverage. Illnesses can arise unexpectedly at any age. I was only twenty-seven when I was swiftly sidelined by rare medical complications.

One plan seemed to cover more treatments more than an other, but since we do not suffer from chronic conditions, (at least not ones that require medical supervision), it is unclear if we would ever need or use those services.

Ultimately it came down to a question of money. The high deductible plan was $760 less per month than the standard PPO and saving $760 a month seemed like a no-brainer.

Here are the numbers that helped us choose the HSA plan. For the record as a result of ObamaCare we now pay a MUCH larger premium.

Current Monthly Premium: $1525
New Monthly Premium: $765
Monthly Savings: $760
Yearly Premium: $18,300
New Yearly Premium: $9180
Yearly Savings: $9120

At the time I wondered why I hadn’t switched over to a High Deductible, HSA plan sooner. We pay less in premiums and can set aside $6,550, (the maximum contribution permitted in 2014), to our HSA.

But now that I have a high deductible insurance plan I find myself less willing to go to the doctor. A few weeks ago I found myself feeling quite ill, but my first thought was “am I sick enough to go to the doctor?” In fact, I tried a number of alternative treatments before seeking professional help.

When I paid a higher monthly premium I thought nothing of going to the doctor. I didn’t visit a doctor frequently, but if I needed to go I made an appointment and didn’t think twice about it.

Now I immediately wonder how much that appointment might cost. What tests will they want to run? How much will each of those tests cost? Of course, no one can ever tell me in advance what I might expect to pay. Instead I have to wait for the insurance claim to be processed and then pay whatever amount has been negotiated between my insurance provider and my doctor.

It’s interesting how much my mind set has changed now that I have a high deductible plan. It’s silly really. It’s not that I can’t afford to go to the doctor. I also know deep down that I am still paying less than I did with a standard PPO plan and that I am still paying a ridiculous amount of money to remain insured. Yet I still find myself hesitating before calling the doctor and in the doctor’s office I wonder if the tests they run are really necessary. (That’s another hold over from my medical past. A lot of the expensive tests they ran on me were unwarranted.)

So I wonder. Is it just me or do high deductible insurance plans make people more hesitant to visit the doctor?

Are you having trouble deciding which health plan to choose? To compare health funds, click here.

February 19, 2014 at 10:29 AM 3 comments

Why I Gladly Pay for Alternative Medical Care

stethoscope

When my son was younger he developed torticollis, (tight muscles on one side of his neck), which caused his poor little head to lean to one side. I asked the doctors about it at each of his visits, but they never seemed to pay any attention to my concerns. They’d tell me to place toys on the opposite side of his crib or play area and to give him lots of tummy time. I did all of those things and his problem continued.

Finally I took matters into my own hands and searched for a physical therapist who specializes in the care of infants. (What did people do before the invention of the Internet?) My insurance company covered some small portion of each session’s total, but only after I paid my entire deductible for the year. Initially I took him twice a month and paid $140 for each visit. When I switched insurance companies my deductible rose to $3,000 a year. Needless to say all of my visits now are paid for out of pocket.

At each visit the therapist spends sixty minutes looking over my son’s body. She asks him to reach for things with both hands, walk, run, kneel and play with toys. She listens to the progress in his verbal communication and stretches out all of the muscles in his neck, arms, shoulders, torso, legs, knees and feet. If she feels tension in a particular area she performs a few stretching exercises and when necessary employs craniosacral therapy to help even things out.

Thanks to therapy my son’s torticollis was corrected long ago, but every six months or so I still take my son back for an evaluation. At this point his therapist seems more like a relative than a medical care provider and even when a long time passes between visits my son still warms right up to her.

When I tell people that I take my son to a physical therapist they often give me strange looks. They ask if he has any medical problems and I tell them that he doesn’t. I just want someone to pay close attention to him as he grows and develops, which usually elicits another strange look.

I don’t like doctors. I have plenty of reasons for disliking them, but in general I think they have too many patients to keep up with these days.

When I take my son to his routine medical appointments the doctor spends very little time actually looking over his body. I have plenty of time to ask questions, but the overall body scan probably takes less than two minutes. That includes looking into his eyes, mouth and ears. The doctor certainly doesn’t take any time to listen to him speak or to watch how he moves his body when he walks, runs or plays.

I’m sure the doctor feels no need to check these things out. After all parents would speak up if they noticed something or had any concerns, but what if parents don’t know what to ask. I have moderate scoliosis that could have been corrected. Unfortunately, in my case doctors just didn’t spend enough time paying attention to my growth and my parents didn’t realize my scoliosis would create lifelong pain and problems for me.

For now I will gladly pay a physical therapist $75 to evaluate my son. I hope that nothing major will ever turn up, but it gives me great piece of mind to have a second set of eyes watching over him while he grows.

October 22, 2013 at 3:42 PM 6 comments

Choosing Sleep Over Everything Else

My blog posts seem more sporadic these days. Some months I post every other day, some weeks I post four days in a row and sometimes I can’t seem to click the ‘publish’ button on anything I’ve written. This feels like one of those weeks. I’ve started writing six posts, but haven’t completed a single one of them. My thoughts are undeniably garbled and disjointed.

After being sick for what seems like an infinite period of time and now feeling extremely drained I’ve decided to put aside everything in favor of sleep. This weekend I tried to put myself to sleep by 10 o’clock every night and took naps within minutes of laying my son down in his crib.

I have a horrible habit of going to bed too late every night and even though I know my son will probably wake me before 7 o’clock I still can’t seem to rest before midnight. This weekend I fought the urge to stay up late and I hope to the do the same as this week progresses.

In order to catch up on sleep I did not respond to emails, check Facebook or read my RSS feeds. I spent my days playing outside with my husband and son as much as possible to suck in a little extra Vitamin D and walked our neighborhood streets at at least twice a day.

I’m not sure if I need a break from technology, but I did find it easier to fall asleep when I kept my iPhone an arm’s distance away at night. I used my iPad to read online magazines, but otherwise I did not find myself distracted by the Internet. After reading I shut off my iPad and didn’t think about it again.

It’s 10:20 EST time so I am heading to bed. It’s a little later than I would like, but a heck of a lot earlier than midnight.

March 17, 2013 at 10:20 PM 2 comments

Sick, Sick, Sick and Still Sick

Three weeks ago I got sick. I felt sluggish, had a high fever and wanted to sleep the day away. That proved slightly more difficult with a 16 month old under foot, but it seems he caught the same bug and wanted to lay around for most of the day too.

A day later my son was back in action. His fever had vanished, he seemed alert, awake and other than a slightly runny nose better than ever. Unfortunately, the same was not true for me. My cold turned into a full blown sinus infection that will not go away.

I went to the doctor after a week and received antibiotics, but they didn’t work for me. Interestingly enough if you Google sinus infection and antibiotics you will find that antibiotics rarely clear sinus infections. Rather than taking another round of drugs I decided to see how things would play out.

Well here I am three weeks later and I’m still not feeling quite myself. I’m tired and sluggish and still can’t get rid of the pressure in my head or my runny nose. The good news is that my sore throat has disappeared, but otherwise my symptoms are roughly the same.

I’ve amped up the humidifier, started gargling with salt water and use the netti-pot more times then I would like to admit in a day.

I realize that it is a lot more difficult to rest with a toddler running around all day. Now that he’s down to one nap I don’t have a lot of down time and I still find myself choosing to go to bed much later than I should.

I’ve considered going back to the doctor but I’m not sure that antibiotics will help me. So the question is how long do I try over the counter remedies and homeopathic rituals before giving in? It’s been two weeks since I last stepped into the doctor’s office? Should I return?

I’m not worried about the money. I just hate finding a sitter, waiting around in a doctor’s office and being told I really just need to give it more time.

March 12, 2013 at 9:57 PM 1 comment

Uber Confused: Should I Select A High-Deductible Insurance Plan?

I have been paying full price for COBRA ever since I was laid off from my job November before last. While I paid very little as an employee I am currently paying over $1400 a month for myself, husband and 14 month old son. It’s time for us to find ourselves a new insurance plan, but I am uber confused by all of the options available.

I chose to stay on our current plan for as long as possible, but I am crazy about medical care. I have had a number of medical problems and know that above all else that I am willing to pay for quality care. In fact, I will cut back on just about everything else in my life to make certain we can afford good insurance. Over the years my insurance has paid for all sorts of services and procedures that would have been denied by other carriers.

As an employee I paid very little each month in premiums. Now that my husband and I will need to move over to a new plan, (he is self employed), we will pay the bill in it’s entirety.

I am considering moving over to a high-deductible insurance plan with an HSA. I read all of the paperwork associated with this plan and compared it to the standard PPO, but I’m still not certain which option to select.

I’m hoping someone out there can provide some input on my choices. While I will continue to read about the options I need to make a decision in the next month or two.

Here’s what I know. My husband is rarely sick and has not gone to the doctors for anything other than a physical for as long as I can remember. That doesn’t mean something couldn’t pop up for him. My medical problems came on sudden and strong, but in a typical year health insurance is a lot of money down the drain for him. My son just turned 15 months old. He doesn’t have any known health issues either. For the most part my medical problems are a thing of the past. I haven’t seen a doctor or surgeon in quite some time for my symptoms. I do see massage therapists from time to time, but those services were never covered by insurance anyway.

My husband and I are still debating having a second child. Some days I’m excited about the idea and other days I think I could be perfectly content with just one child. It is conceivable that I would pregnant again by the end of the year or shortly thereafter.

Does anyone have any thoughts on high-deductible plans versus standard PPOs? If so, does anyone know if there is a preferable route I should take if I become pregnant?

An update: To view my decision click here.

January 18, 2013 at 10:37 PM 7 comments

Baby A’s First Fever – What Type of Thermometer Do You Use For an Infant?

On Sunday morning my little 7 month old baby boy woke up with a fever. His little body was unbelievably hot to the touch, so I stripped off all of his clothes and tried to cool him off with a wet washcloth. Before applying the towel to his skin I grabbed two different thermometers and attempted to take his temperature.

The first is an inexpensive thermometer that can be used under his arm. That’s the way the nurses took his temperature at the hospital. (It’s actually the very same one they used on his first day in this world.)

The second is an expensive temporal thermometer that is supposed to work with just a swipe of the forehead. It’s not invasive and it provides a reading within seconds.

The problem is both devices had their problems. The first took forever to register a reading and I had to try to occupy my very active baby boy with one hand while trying to keep the thermometer in place with the other. It wasn’t an easy task, but the final temperature seemed to be accurate.

The temporal thermometer wouldn’t work for me at all. Every time I swiped that little device across his forehead it registered a different number. I tried it on myself and found the same problem. I read the directions over and over to make certain I was holding down the button for the appropriate amount of time, pressing it against the right part of the head, etc, but no matter what I did I received a different temperature every time.

I’ve thought about buying an ear thermometer. I even asked the nurse at the doctor’s office what kind they use and whether or not it would be worth purchasing. The price is somewhere between $35 and $40 for one with good reviews on Amazon.

While this is Baby A’s first fever I know it certainly won’t be his last, so I’d really like to find a device that works quickly and accurately and isn’t nearly impossible to use with a fussy, fidgeting baby.

I know a lot of moms read this blog. If you have any suggestions on what you’ve used for your little ones PLEASE leave me a comment.

June 11, 2012 at 9:03 PM 10 comments

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