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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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