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Rheumatoid Arthritis Type 1 Diabetes

Here’s your gift bag!

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My husband had dental surgery today. In addition to post op instructions, he received a gift bag. Yes, you read that correctly. A gift bag. I’ve had quite a few surgeries and other than some ace bandages and a pain medication script, I usually just end up with a bill.

The gift bag had things he would immediately need- gauze packs, instant cold pack. It also had a pen, a t-shirt, and a coupon for a free milkshake from Chick-fil-A. Whaaaaaat?! I didn’t have to run out to the store immediately to get him gauze, we had it. And a milkshake? That’s the perfect post op treat- you haven’t eaten in hours but need to get something in your system (my husband has actually taken me to get a milkshake after every one of my surgeries so we had a little laugh about that at the doctor’s office). And what about the t shirt? Yeah, I’m wearing that now- it has a clever slogan about losing your wisdom teeth. Regardless, it’s clean and comfy.

How cool would it be if after my knee surgery, I received a gift bag? With maybe a stress ball to squeeze the crap out of (or bite into) when my nerve block wears off or perhaps a whistle for calling my children to help me? And maybe one of those long grabber things so I could reach my lip balm after I drop it on the floor and can’t bend to reach it?

In all seriousness, what would be in your gift bag? And have you ever been lucky enough to receive one yourself?

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Rheumatoid Arthritis

Progress Check

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As I’m nearing the 12 week post op mark (tomorrow!), I figured it would be a good time to share how things are going.

Quick background, I had pretty intensive knee surgery back on June 1st. I took off the day of my surgery and the day after but was back to work that following Monday, from home. I’ve been teleworking full time since.

I knew this surgery was going to have one heck of a recovery. My surgeon reminded me multiple times as did friends who had the same surgery as me. But just because I knew it would be long, didn’t mean I had fully accepted it.

Crutches for months with a full leg brace to keep it fun. I’m now down to one crutch and a smaller brace. And yesterday, I went back to the office for the first time! My surgeon is only permitting me to work two days in the office for the next few weeks. I argued this when I saw him at my last visit but he was adamant- I had to work my way back to my pre surgery activities and doing too much was going to increase my already bothersome swelling and increase my healing time.

And as much as it pains me to type this, he was right. Ugh. My work day itself wasn’t rough by any means but my knee didn’t care how easy I took things or how elevated I kept my leg all day. My swelling was crazy! My ankle was huge and my kneecap couldn’t be located amongst all of my fluid. And the pain. Whoa. It hurt.

Today I saw my physical therapist and I honestly didn’t want to go to my appointment. Before I went to work, I was moving up and down stairs with an ease I hadn’t had yet. My kneecap was actually in the shape of a kneecap! Barely any swelling and pretty easily managed pain. I had myself convinced that my work day had thrown my progress back weeks. Stairs were so hard and the swelling was still there.

I didn’t realize it but today’s PT visit was progress note day. I was super bummed out when I realized. My therapist checked the strength throughout my leg, measurements for range of motion, swelling, etc. She kept saying “great” as she measured but I assumed she was just being nice (she is SO nice by the way, I love her).

She noticed the expression on my face and asked what was wrong. I told her I felt that things were so bad and really didn’t want to know how bad my report was. She then proceeded to tell me that my range of motion was back to my post op numbers, my strength was awesome (aside from the dreaded quad lag), and my swelling wasn’t measuring bad at all. Whaaaat?!

That report was the exact reminder I needed that with a chronic illness, you can’t let one bad moment, one setback, determine the future. If I let every high blood sugar, every sharp pain, ruin my day, my week, I wouldn’t have any reason to keep pushing on.

So next time you find yourself in a rough spot, pause. This will pass. And the fight alone, is something you should be proud of. It takes one hell of a person to get up every day and battle a chronic illness.

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Favorite Things

Surgery Necessities

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If you’ve been following me on social media, you have seen me talk about my knee surgery a lot. On June 1st, 2017 I had a pretty invasive surgery on my knee that I knew would involve at least 2 months on crutches, a brace for most of the summer, and a hard recovery. I shared in this post, how I was preparing my life for surgery. I’ve learned over the past few weeks that in addition to preparing your job, your home, etc for surgery, there are things that are really helpful to have on hand. Don’t be like me and learn as you go (and place Amazon Prime orders almost every day)! And please, tell me what you would include as I would love to make this as comprehensive of a list as possible.

Amazon Prime

Speaking of Amazon Prime this service has been an absolute lifesaver for me post-op. I did an Amazon Prime 30-Day Free Trial which was great for me so I could get the things I needed right away, sometimes the same day, if not the next. In addition to getting some of the items you’ll see below, I ordered cat food, litter, shampoo, vitamins… This trial is something I’m probably going to continue or look into having items shipped from Target. I spend a lot of my precious energy going to Target every weekend to stock up on non-perishables. Sometimes that big Target trip is all I can accomplish without having to rest the remainder of the day. When I’m fully recovered, I’m definitely going to look into what I can have shipped to my door for a similar price.

Gloves

Yes, it’s summer here in Baltimore and yes, I’m saying that gloves are a mandatory item to have if you’re going to be on crutches full-time like me. I had ordered these awesome gloves from G-Loves prior to surgery because I was having so much trouble at the gym. My hands were in too much pain to hold on to weight training equipment. These gloves gave me the protection and padding I needed to get my workouts back on track with minimal pain.

I decided to try them with my crutches and they were awesome! I wear them all the time and haven’t had any wrist or hand pain from my crutches which is a big deal since my Rheumatoid Arthritis has been flaring. You’ll also see my Wonder Woman wrist wraps in the photo which would be great if you don’t need full hand support and they’re only $12!

 

Bolster Pillow

For the first week post-op, my sleep and swelling was awful. I had a tower of pillows that I used to elevate my knee and that tower wasn’t the best. I spent the whole night trying so hard not to move, so my tower wouldn’t fall down. I had my family haul pillows up and down the stairs, depending on which room I was sitting in. I went to physical therapy and my therapist had me rest my leg on a bolster while she iced my knee. I fell asleep instantly. She told me to look on online, that the products wouldn’t be a as sturdy (or as expensive), but that I could probably find a good one. I’ve learned from others that some orthopedic surgeons prescribe these prior to surgery and that they couldn’t believe I was trying to recover without one.

Here’s the one that I ordered- Restorology Elevating Leg Rest Pillow Memory Foam Leg Rest Pillow
I’d encourage you to read reviews and make sure the pillow will stay firm and check the measurements to make sure it’s high enough for your ideal elevation.

 

Compression Socks

Prior to surgery, I owned compression socks. Post surgery, I realized that those socks were enough for mild Rheumatoid Arthritis swelling but were no match for post op swelling. I ended up with 3cm of fluid in my ankle and was in a lot of pain as a result. I highly encourage you to have quality compression socks on hand- they really make a difference in recovery.

These socks, PRO Compression: Marathon Compression Socks, are the brand I ended up buying because they come in so many cool colors and patterns! I’m a sucker for fun, colorful socks anyway!

 

Your Pride

All of these items were extremely helpful but there is one thing that you actually don’t need when recovering. But do you know what you don’t need? Your pride. Getting comfortable with asking others to help was hard for me but necessary- I can’t drive myself anywhere, I can’t even cook yet. Admit when you’re hurting, admit when you just can’t do something. I can’t tell you how much better recovery will be if you put yourself first.

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Rheumatoid Arthritis

How to prepare for surgery

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A year ago I had my first knee surgery and I’ll be going back into the OR in a few weeks. Thinking back to my recovery last year, I realized there are things I can do now, to make life post-surgery a bit easier. 

Refill Prescriptions 

I typically refill my meds when I’m sorting my weekly pills and realize I need more for the following week. Now, I’m refilling early (when I can) and also plan to fill up two weekly pill cases. That way I can have my regular am and pm meds sorted and not have to deal with them right away. 

Doctor’s Appointments

If you have a chronic illness or two, you most likely have a lot of apppintments. There’s a good chance that one or more of them are set right after your surgery. If you wait and try to reschedule, you may be pushed way out, if your specialists are as busy as mine. Move your appointments now. For example, my rheumatologist follow-up is 3 weeks after surgery. I already know I can’t start my next biologic until 3 months post-op. It’s also going to be difficult to assess my disease activity when I’m on post surgery pain meds, crutches, and have limited mobility. Moving my appointment a little further out keeps me from wasting my time, my copay, and it’s one less ride I need from my family. 

Make Things Accessible

Since I hoard enough insulin pump supplies to be fully prepared for the diabetes apocalypse, I have to keep everything in under the bed boxes. It’s quite difficult to reach something under your bed when you’re in a full leg brace and can’t bend down. I’ve moved a couple weeks worth of supplies into a basket on a shelf that I can easily reach. 

Practice

Last year after surgery, they wheeled me out to my mom’s waiting car. I asked them to open the passenger door. I slid my butt in and went to bring my right leg in. Fail. My mom’s seat only goes back so far and I guess her car wasn’t meant for someone who is 5’8 to keep their leg straight. I needed up having to scoot backwards into the back seat. It is a miracle that I didn’t vomit all over that car. This year, I’m going to try getting into my own car’s passenger side, before I’m heavily medicated and woozy. 

Vacation Planning

Think of when you’re planning to go away. Make sure you have your plane tickets (FMLA papers, clearance for surgery from your PCP). You make sure your favorite clothes are clean and laid out for packing (or laid out to be easily grabbed when you need them). You have the things that make the trip easier- for me, it’s vitamin c drops, chapstick, my charger, and Propel water. 

I’d love to hear your suggestions for a smooth surgery recovery, please share! 

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Rheumatoid Arthritis

Doors are Closed for the Disabled

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This is the first time in my life that I’ve been on crutches. Other surgeries were wrists..lower body injuries always got me a glamorous Velcro boot. 

I’ve only had Rheumatoid Arthritis for four (extremely long) years and I know that the possibility of another surgery, injury, disability..is pretty good. Sure, that sucks. But you know what sucks more? 

The world is not accommodating for people with disabilities at all. I know, I know. Newsflash, right? No. 

The week after my surgery, I got sick and decided to run up to Patient First (translation- hobble to my mom’s car and have her drive me). I got up on my crutches and got to the doors. They were regular, pull handle doors. Two sets of them. No handicap button, no option for me to open them on my own and not risk injuring my recovering knee. 

In case you aren’t familiar, Patient First is an urgent care clinic where people go when they are sick. When they have injured their leg playing soccer, or hurt themselves on the job. And the doors aren’t accessible to people without two working legs and arms. Totally makes sense. 

Moving on- I came to notice doors at every single place I went to. 7-11? No slurpee for you, young man using a cane. Old Navy? Nope. (You didn’t think people with a disability should be able to shop for their own clothes did you?). Physical Therapy? Nope- so pissy about that one. 

If I’m understanding things correctly, those of us with a disability- permanent or temporary should only be able to visit the pharmacy and the hospital. That’s all we need right? 

Wrong. 

If you’re a business owner, listen up. I don’t claim to know the first thing about the expense of handicap accessible doors. I’m sure there are building code and security issues as well. But what I do know is that everyone has a right to go to any business they like and be able to get in the door. 

So what can you do? 

  • Install a doorbell. A simple button that someone at wheelchair height can utilize to alert someone inside that he/she needs assistance. Go visit a gas station pump, you’ll see one there. 
  • Utilize your greeter. So many businesses have someone standing/sitting at the front door to greet customers. Train them! Empower them to look for those in need and be ready to assist. 

As a fiercely independent person, crutches were a big blow to me. Luckily for me, there was an end in sight but plenty of others are going to be using crutches, canes, wheelchairs forever. Please don’t lock us out. 

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Rheumatoid Arthritis

Slow And Steady

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For the previous nine months I had been in extreme pain. Painkillers 24/7 just to take the edge off and try not to throw up. Ice was mandatory just to drive to work. I tried injections, physical therapy. Nothing helped.

Two weeks ago I had knee surgery. I’ll spare you the details- knee cap realignment, degenerated meniscus, lots of cartilage/tissue work. I can already say that it was a success. I am off regular pain meds for my knee (my other joints miss their methotrexate and Humira badly though) and am ready to power through recovery. Or so I thought.

I’m still restricted to using crutches 24/7. I’m 100% compliant on stairs. When it’s a few steps to the kitchen or in my living room, I’m not so compliant. Tonight I went out to grab dinner with my husband. We parked in the handicapped spot and I decided to leave the crutches in the car and walk the few steps in, holding on to my husband for support. I felt a little weak in the knees (awww ?) but otherwise did just fine.

Fast forward a few hours later. Holy pain batman. My calf muscles feel like I have run a marathon (or what I imagine that to feel like. You all know I don’t run!). Both knees ache, my hips are mad, as is my lower back.

Stupid to walk without crutches? Maybe. But it was eye opening. This recovery is not going to be easy. It’s going to be hard. And painful. I think it was important for me to have this set back. Physcial therapy is going to be rough as is working full time in the office, rather than at home. I need to remember how the few steps tonight made me feel, so that I can focus on going slow and steady.

I’m embracing my new Tortoise Life and the reminder my husband had waiting for me in recovery at the hospital (see Cruiser below) needs to be with me at all times.

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Rheumatoid Arthritis

A Glimpse

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I had my second carpal tunnel surgery 4 days ago (will cover that ordeal in a future post!) and have been recovering since. I have spent the majority of the past few days at home, sleeping or resting. I woke up in the morning when I was ready, not when my alarm clock went off. I ate when I was hungry and slept when I was tired. I became one with my couch and bed. Sure, I had painkillers prescribed by my surgeon but I didn’t need many of them. The best part of this was I had very little pain from my Rheumatoid Arthritis.

So what’s the problem? Well, this isn’t, and can’t be, my lifestyle. I have a fulltime job, 2 kids, a husband, and a home (and of course, Jungle George). I don’t usually have any time to rest during the week, aside from crawling into bed at 8pm. I definitely nap on the weekends but my RA pain doesn’t rest when I do.

I wonder how many less pills, injections, braces, and tears there would be if I won the lottery and could stay home to rest as often as I needed to. I wonder how much my quality of life would improve..how much more time, quality time, I would have to spend with my family.

Has anyone turned a glimpse like this into a reality? I’d like to hope so.

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Rheumatoid Arthritis

And Then There Was One..

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image

✔️ Physical

✔️ EKG

✔️ Bloodwork

 

One week from tomorrow, I’ll have surgery on my left wrist. I eventually need to have nerve release surgery on my left elbow and my right wrist, but I’m starting off slow. I’m right handed so this shouldn’t be too big of a deal, right? Uh, wrong. All I can think about are all of the things I need two hands to do:

  • Blow drying my hair. Yes it has to be dried every morning. I don’t have that wonderful type of hair that can just be pulled back into a ponytail (which, I should add, I wouldn’t be able to do any way because you need two hands for a
  • Eye liner. Should be really fun trying to hold my eyelid and use the eyeliner with one good hand. Suggestions appreciated.
  • Parallel parking. I do this every single day at work. Or, I used to.
  • Putting my contacts in. This should be a treat. Thank goodness they’re daily disposables.
  • Getting dressed. My bra, buttons, you get the idea. It’s not like I can wear sweats and sneakers every day. I couldn’t even tie my own shoe!
  • Managing my Type 1 Diabetes- pricking my finger, inserting a new infusion set. Ugh.

 

There are some bright spots though. I’ve thought of some things that I won’t be able to do and I’m looking forward to not doing them:

  • Grocery shopping. Push a cart with one hand? Not a good idea.
  • Cooking. Definitely going to need help with this one.
  • Dishes. Can’t really hold a dish and wash it with one hand, right? Especially while my stitches are in and I can’t get them wet.

Have you ever had an injury to your arm? How did you complete your normal activities? Any suggestions would be much appreciated!

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