Friday, March 27, 2009

Today I went to visit Pepsi again with Debbie, who is his caretaker while Ann is in France. It was great to see him again and this time I was able to help a lot more. Luckily he was close by when we got there so there was no hiking to find him. I am not sure if he recognized me, but he came right up to me when I got to the fence and let me pet him on the head right away.

Boy was Pepsi muddy. It has been raining here for several days and it really shows. He must have been rolling in the mud because he was covered head to toe. Debbie brought him into his stall and we spent over 30 minutes brushing him to get all the dried mud out of his fur. And he was shedding his winter coat so there was dust and fur flying everywhere. There was no hay in the stall for him, so when his oats ran out he nudged me for more, so Debbie had to go up in the hay loft and throw some down so we could continue to brush him. Then I got to feed him carrots and apples and he slobbered all over my hands, so much so that I had to find a hose and rinse off.

We also saw a foal that was less than a week old. It is hard to see him in the photo because it was so far away from the fence. It was great to get out and I felt great the whole time and my back did not bother me (at least I forgot about it for a while so that's good). I was a little sore when I got back into the car, but not too bad.
From Pepsi
I fell asleep on the recliner last night while reading around 8pm and now here I am wide awake. I usually feel my best when I first wake up in the morning and get progressively more sore throughout the day. I have been taking lots of naps in hopes that it will help me heal more quickly, but this messes up my sleep schedule (this was no problem the first few weeks because of the meds and I am guessing intense healing). I have also been taking maximum doses of tylenol and naproxen, but has been pretty hard on my stomach. And what's up with the head aches and dizziness?

I have an appointment with my PCP later this morning to tell him what is giong on and ask for some non-narcotic pain meds that are better than the otc stuff I have been using. Maybe he will give me an Rx for PT so I can get started sooner than my ortho appointment on Wedensday of next week.

Last night I cooked for the second time since the accident. Just some simple flounder that I seasoned and breaded with waffle fries in the oven and green beans in the microwave. Last time I cooked it was just a frozen bag meal in the skillet. This was much better and another milestone in my recovery. Tom really enjoyed it, especially when I served him on the recliner like he served me for 3 weeks. He more than deserved it.

As the dawn light starts to appear I notice the cool foggy conditions. But I guess it is not so neat if you have to drive to work in it. Hopefully the weather will hold up for my visit with Pepsi today.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

More good news. I found my new ski goggles that I thought were left at the house in Cass! Have you ever lost something, and then have no idea where or when, and then you are constantly double-checking places it might be? Well, another burden is gone. Just like that. All because I decided to do some picking up around the house.

I wish I had a cool picture to show you of me in my new goggles and helmet, but I just didn't get one. Next time... well, if there is a next time for me and skiing....that is a conversation for another day.

From Snowshoe II 2009

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

The moral of the story is....

Good news with the insurance debacle. I called the main number for the insurance company and talked to a really nice representative who listened to my whole story and all my worries (ha! almost like free therapy). Anyway, he said this sort of thing happens sometimes and it is not nearly as bad as I think it is. My claim was denied because to them it looked like a standalone hospital procedure. Normally when you go to the ER they notify the insurance of the situation and that there might be admittance to the hospital, etc. This never happened for me because the Roanoke ER never got my insurance card (I have since gotten a bill from the ER and notified them of my ins. info). So, everything will probably be re-evaluated when the ins. company gets all of the claims. And if it does not happen automatically, all I have to do is tell them. So I might have to do an appeal letter, but I will not have to convince them medically, just a simple story about what happened (got hurt, went to Pocahontas, got admitted, transferred to Roanoke, got admitted, etc). I might also have to appeal a double charge for co-pays, but that won't be hard either.

So, I am feeling much more relaxed about the whole situation. It is like a burden released from my shoulders (or back in my case :). My situation is not nearly as complicated as I thought it was. I do have to stay on top of things, but I have faith that things will work out in my favor.

The moral of my story is this: Always carry your insurance card, and emergency contact info. MAKE SURE all information is given to the hospital. AND when you are transferred, don't assume you insurance info was transferred. My excuse is that I was half asleep and well drugged when I was wheeled into the ER at Roanoke. And Tom was half asleep too (I still don't know how he drove from Poca. to Roanoke in the middle of the night). Tom said the Roanoke ER never asked for the insurance info. Which is weird because we were there for 5 hours.
I am still adjusting to sleeping upstairs. On the recliner I would sleep straight through the night and not move much, but in the bed I toss and turn a lot and wake up early.

So here I am awake at 6am watching tv. Tom will be meeting his CEO today for customer visits her in Charlottesville and Salem. So, I a going to stay up until he leaves for work so I can wish him good luck (and see him in his suit, bubba hubba).

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Today I took the first step in the insurance appeal process. I wrote a letter requesting the "clinical review criteria" used to make the decision to reject my coverage. Once I get this information I can start with the actual appeal letter. Exciting stuff. Luckily there is no charge for this service, but I am getting stressed out about this whole situation because I can't start on the appeal letter now. And I probably have to track down the Roanoke ER doctor who admitted me into the hospital to help argue my case if necessary. I was talking to Tom about all of this when he got home and he calmed me down and told me to relax because I can't do anything until I get the criteria back anyway. And I will have more than one try to make my case, and I have 180 days to get it done. Sigh.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Yesterday was a good day. I forgot to write about it because I was so busy with medical stuff. I did show you Griff the mastiff, and he is becoming a bit of a celebrity on facebook. He has his own fanpage by Karin-Anne (her fans demanded it), if you are interested in more pictures.

You might wonder why one would actually enjoy doing housework. I work part-time as an engineer, but my full-time job is keeping house. And since my accident I have been unable to do either one. Don't get me wrong, I can't wait to get back to my day job, but right now I can't wait to get back to getting this house clean. Four bedrooms, 2.5 bathrooms and 2000 square feet is a lot to keep track of (compared to an apartment) even if it is just me and Tom. He does most of the cooking, and I do almost everything else. Since coming home from the hospital, Tom has done a great job with cooking, dishes, taking care of me, and staying on top of his demanding job. I just dread playing catch-up with the rest of the house. Unfortunately, most house chores are very back-muscle intensive.

So, yesterday I starting feeling less like a parasite and more like a contributing member of the household. I folded laundry while sitting on the couch. And I cleaned the kitchen sink. Insignificant you might say, but a huge hurtle for me in my recovery.

I am much more mobile lately with the aid of my back brace, but I constantly reminded that I cannot lift more than a few pounds, even if it is without bending. Every once in a while I accidentally twist my back ever so slightly that I get a tinge of shooting pain in my butt. And the hardest movement is picking things off the floor. I can bend with my knees with almost no back pain, but my legs are so weak from the lack of exercise that it is hard to do. This is heartbreaking to me because of all my hard work in athletics, and I am reminded of the long recovery to get back to where I was before the accident.

I am taking regular Tylenol and that is all I need know for pain management, as long as I take it easy. My mind is wonderfully clear, when I am awake I am not too sleepy, I can see without double vision, and I have returned to natural bowl movements (ok, I just had to add this, it is something that a healthy person takes for granted, and something that you have to learn to talk about freely because every medical person will ask you this while you are on narcotic pain meds). I should be able to drive soon, if I can remember how. I should be able to return to work Wednesday or Thursday, but I am dreading sitting upright in a chair for more than a few minutes at a time (I still have to sit reclined).

Another big hurtle was crossed yesterday. I slept upstairs in bed next to Tom. This is one of the things that I missed the most. Until now I have been sleeping downstairs on the recliner because lying flat on my back was agony. The bed is much more firm than the recliner with the egg crate, so I could feel that my back is still swolen. But I did not hurt too much, and I was asleep in no time. I can't sleep on on either side because that curves my lower back.

Well, I have rambled on too much about myself and yesterday, that now I do not have the energy to talk about today. So it will have to wait until tomorrow. Tom is still upstairs working, so I get to watch some TV that he doesn't like. Yeah.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

I found something interesting in the report from the radiologist who examined my x-rays and CT scans. He made an "incidental note" of gallstones in my gallbladder. I looked through my scans on the CD and could not pinpoint the stones (there are lots of dots everywhere), so I am not going to post those scans like I did for my fractures.

Thanks to the modern invention of the internet, I get to read all I want about the condition without bugging my doctor. I read about them at WebMD and NIH. Basically I am OK, but if I get severe pain in my abdomen someday I will know where to start looking.

The radiologist also noted that my bladder was distended (overly full). Well, I could have told him that.

My friend Karin-Anne from the outdoor club came by today with her awesome dog Griff. He is an Italian Mastiff and he is VERY big and friendly. He gives wet, sloppy kisses, and aims directly at the mouth. But he was very nice and friendly and didn't try to push me over or anything.
I just got a great question from Tom's Grandma who is following my blog closely. I will answer it here because I think that one of my recent blog entries might have been confusing. I am starting to understand the records, and I have an idea of what they mean now. Here is an exert of her email:
I am always interested in finding out what terminology is used for the different medical conditions, I always look them up on and was surprised that the neurogenic bladder was mineral stones in the bladder. Couldn't find foley decompression on Mayo Clinic nor What is Foley decompression? Did they mention the fractures at all?
The hospital admission form did mention my fractures as the reason for needing pain control. As long as IV pain meds are needed to control pain (as opposed to oral meds), that is enough reason to admit me. According to the insurance rejection letter, they think that pain was controlled with oral meds only when I was admitted. They have the wrong information. In my case, I was put on both oral and IV pain meds, and as I progressed, I was slowly switched to oral meds only, by the second day.

Here is the definition of neurogenic bladder from

Neurogenic bladder is a urinary problem in which the bladder does not empty properly. Depending on the type of neurological disorder causing the problem, the bladder may empty spontaneously (incontinence) or may not empty at all (retention with overflow leakage).

Some of the common causes for neurogenic bladder are nervous system tumor, trauma, neuropathy, or inflammatory conditions (such as multiple sclerosis).
I believe that bladder stones is one of the causes, as you read in the definition. My situation was retention due to trauma. And this is what the doctor in West Virginia was worried about and his reason for transferring me to Roanoke.

A Foley Catheter is a bag with a tube that stays in the bladder, usually for patients who are recovering from surgery where they can't get up for a few days. The disadvantage of this is that the bladder gets lazy and forgets how to expel urine on its own (I think one of the doctors told me this). Based on some other notes I read, Foley Decompression is the process of weaning the patient off the catheter and observing the bladder's ability to recover on its own. At the W. Va. hospital I was given two chances to urinate on my own, and I was unable to, dispite have 1.2 L and .8 L in my badder each time (the average bladder capacity is .4 - .6 L). So the nurse put in a Foley and I was transferred to Roanoke.

On March 3rd, my second day in the hospital, the catheter was removed. It took a while, but I was able to go on my own. If I didn't, they said that they would perform an "in-and-out catheter" (no bag), and I would have to try again later. To sum up my answer to your question, the doctor can't just remove the catheter and send you home. You have to demonstrate your ability to go on your own. And that is my best guess for the meaning of "Foley Decompression," and that is why I was admitted to the hospital.

When I was at my PCP's (Primary Care Physician, Dr. D) office picking up the records, the nurse said I can set up a regular visit to discuss the records. So I think that after I have read everything several times, listed my questions, and drafted the letter to the insurance, I will schedule a check-up/consultation to go over everything. And luckily, since Tom's job is fairly flexible, he will be able to come with me, and for that I am grateful.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

I spent the last half hour or so reading over my medical records that we picked up yesterday. They are difficult to read because of all the abbreviations and medical terminology. It took a while, but I found the hospital admittance form. The doctors wrote the reasons were pain control and foley decompression due to nerogenic bladder. Hopefully this will be good enough for the insurance company. I have to write a letter to them disputing their refusal to cover the hospital stay. I am really not looking forward to doing it.
I walked around outside some today. Got the mail and checked the radon fan. I thought I heard sounds while sitting at the kitchen table reading my medical records. Note to self: kitchen chairs hurt my back and rear to sit on for an extended amount of time. The radon fan was fixed Friday and a better mesh cap was used. Wolfgag said that he will try to convince the manufacturer to cover it under warranty. If he can't, we have to pay for the fan, $115, but he will cover the labor.

Cabin Fever Returns

It's catching up to me now. Beautiful, mild spring day. It's Saturday and I am laying on the recliner as I have been for the last three weeks, but I feel different for some reason. Tom is in the living room painting and I feel sad that I can't help him.

I have really decreased my pain meds that is starting to catch up with me too. I am still sleepy, maybe more than before.

An old friend from my Carderock van pool called between naps and it was nice to catch up. Didn't get to go to the bird talk today, but oh well. I didn't have the heart to bug Tom to take me. He has a lot to do around the house and still seems a little stressed at the overall situation. Tom has thanked me for all of the work that I have been doing (calling doctors, hospitals, insurance, etc.) and that seems to help relieve his stress.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Tom drew up a bath for me and helped me upstairs. My bath was wonderful. Sitting in the tub is relatively pain-free, and no fear of slipping and falling. I did not need help washing, just getting in and out. Another step of independence regained And I got to shave my legs, which was much overdue. Now I am relaxing on the recliner feeling wonderfully clean and content.

I might go to a bird talk at the local outdoor shop tomorrow. My friend Karin-Anne will be taking me if her plans work out. The talk is by Jonathan Alderfer, a writer and illustrator of birding guides by National Geographic.
From Our New Home

Another beautiful day here in Charlottesville. Today is officially the first day of spring. My day started early enough to see the sunrise showing the trees again, but this time I was able to get up and take a picture of the scene.

Before lunch Tom drove me to my PCP and we picked up my records from both hospitals. It cost us $42.50 for my doctor's office to print them out for us. And we could not get them mailed to us from the hospitals directly because they would not release them to me except in person. The privacy laws for medical records just prevents the patient from getting their own records. We need the records so we can start writing an appeal to the insurance company. The letter needs to have copies of records sited.

My friend Debbie from karate picked me up today and brought me along while she took care of her daughter's (Ann, also from karate, who is in France for study abroad) horse Pepsi. I rested in the car and enjoyed the sunshine and the view while Debbie cleaned his stall and then looked for Pepsi in fields (which are big). I wish I had brought my camera. Then I followed her to the barn and kept her company while she brushed him and cleaned is hooves.

The walk from the car to the barn was very short and easy (paved, no stairs or hills). I am supposed to walk every day per the PT from the hospital, and this was much nicer than the kitchen and the back deck even. I was wearing my back brace and walking slowly and carefully, and my back was fine. It was a little sore when I returned to the car, but nothing unmanageable.

At the end I got to help feed him carrots and apple pieces. I seemed to forget all of my pain and stress while I was there with Pepsi. Horses really are therapeutic. Debbie goes every week, so I may get to go more.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

I just thought of something that I forgot to follow up a previous blog. It has to do with the CPA in NJ who does our taxes. Tom asked the CPA during the meeting last Saturday if we can do our future returns with email and phone only (without a meeting). The CPA said that he has lots of customers across the country who don't meet with him in person. So Tom said that we can do this too in the future. I don't mind the drive to NJ and seeing the family, but I don't like the time constraint of making an appointment a couple months in advance, and being restricted to February and March, with no chance to reschedule. I would rather visit in the summer when the weather is better scheduling is more flexible. So I am happy that our taxes are done now and we are set for next year and years to come with a good CPA that we don't have to drive 5+ hours to see.

Some good things did come out of Tom's visit home last weekend.
1. Our taxes are done.
2. I spent quality time with my Dad.
3. His family sent home gifts.
4. His sister got to ride back with him halfway to meet her ride for going back to college (his parents would have had to do this).
5. Tom is in a much better mood since he got back. It seems the weekend he got away from home and our situation really helped him relieve stress.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

It's amazing how the little things become big
When you lose them and get them back again

Tonight we had dinner on the back deck. After my long day at doctor's office and calling the insurance company and other things, I took a nap (which is necessary when you are on pain meds). Tom woke me up and encouraged me to have dinner with him on the deck (usually I eat sitting on the recliner). I was not up for it at first, but he brought me a sweater and helped me off the couch and outside. Two reclined lawn chairs were set up and dinner was ready on the table. This took some work on his part because everything was still packed up for the winter. We had a wonderful time eating dinner together and watching the birds fly by and talking about the day. Then he brought me a freshly iced cup cake that his sister sent home with him on Sunday as a get-well gift. How did I get so lucky?


I just got back from the UVA orthopedic center. I saw a P.A. (that's Physician Assistant for those of you in Rio Linda) who was very nice and knowledgeable. The whole trip took three hours, which is a lot longer than I expected. Luckily, Stephanie was able to go home and get work done and then pick me up when I was ready.

First they took x-rays, which I did not think was necessary because things probably did not change in 2-1/2 weeks, but heck, what do I know, I'm just an engineer. Then I saw the P.A. and he spent a good amount of time with me going over the CT scans and x-rays. I did not learn a lot of new things, but he encouraged me and justified the pain and lack of mobility. He said it will take about 12 weeks to heal, and even then I will feel sore and weak due to inactivity. Chronic long-term pain does not seem to be an issue. No work for another couple weeks, and after that it is up to me and how I feel.

The P.A. pointed out the rib fracture on the CT scan which is something that I did not pick up on my own.
From Snowshoe II 2009
The PA pushed poked, pulled, and prodded in a few places. No physical therapy for now. I tried to argue my case, but he said I need to heal more first.

Then I was fit for a back brace. It is fairly comfortable and supports my back muscles, helps me stand up straight when I walk and prevents twisting and bending. It looks similar to the back supports that grocery stockers wear while working, except this one is taller and has metal stays in the back. The tech said not to wear it while lounging or sleeping.

I have a follow-up appointment in two weeks with the ortho doctor who works with the P.A. I just saw.

It felt very good to get out of the house. As before, the hardest parts were getting in and out of the car, and sitting upright in the office chair. So I slowly walked the halls with the walker while I was waiting, and it felt pretty good. It was the most exercise I have gotten at one time since the accident. My hip and lower back were sore, but no more muscle spasms.

I am very grateful that Stephanie was able to drive me too and from the doctor's office, and she was very flexible with me since it took 3 hours instead of one.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

I don't have much to write about because I woke up at 10am when Tom came downstairs. He has been on conference calls all morning. I was hurting a little because it was so long since my last dose of meds, but not as bad as a week ago in the same situation. My goals today are to start to tackle the insurance claim problems and find the advocate program contacts for tom's company.

Yesterday the problem of finding a ride to the doctor's office was quickly solved. I sent out a group email to some local friends, and within minutes I had several offers. I am amazed every day how nice people are to help me and Tom.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Wow, I've gotten so much done today, and it's not even noon yet. Finally got the appointment with an orthopedic doctor at uva. The only problem is that it is Wednesday morning and Tom will be out of town that day for work, so now I need to find a ride. My other achievement for this morning has to do with the radon fan, which is a whole other story.

A few weeks ago (before the ski trip) tom heard a noise coming from the radon fan (back left corner of the house outside). He checked it out the next day and found a dead squirrel in the tube. It had chewed the wire mesh cap, fallen in, chewed up the fan and wires, and then died. Kind of sad, because it probably died of starvation. It was installed by a contractor through the previous owner during closing negotiations, and we could not find the receipt to see if who or if it was still under warranty. I looked up the fan online, and it would cost 150-200 dollars just for parts (the whole unit had to be replaced, and it looked easy enough to do ourselves). This morning I had the idea of looking for radon installers in our area and calling them to see if they had installed ours. But it turns out that there is only one in this area. I called and talked to Wolfgang who remembered doing the work here. Within five minutes he was here to check it out (he was already driving in the area). He said he will fix it no problem, and put a better cap on it this time. Another problem solved from the recliner with a phone and laptop.

Now I just have to sort out the health insurance mess....

Sunday, March 15, 2009

It was nice having my dad here this weekend. The weather was yucky, so it was not as hard being cooped up inside. Plus, when it rains, we get more birds and the feeders. My dad was having a ball watching and photographing them. He even cooked two dinners and a breakfast while here was here. I had fun talking to him about politics and watching the history channel.

Here is one of the pictures he took while he was here.
From Our Backyard Birds

Friday, March 13, 2009

My friend Debbie from karate came over today and brought me lunch. We had a nice time talking about karate and exchanging injury stories. Two hours went by in a flash. It makes me so happy when friends come to visit that I almost forget about my injury. Talking about karate made me miss it even more, but gave me new resolve to get back into it as soon as I am better. I am sure I will have to ease back in and take it slow at first.

My dad got here a little after 4pm. He came all the way from Hampton, VA, a three hour drive, for the second time in two weeks. It is good seeing him again and I enjoy his company. He even cooked dinner for the two of us, a meal that Tom set up before he left.

I had a worse time than usual getting up and down from the recliner today. It's that same muscle spasm in my lower back/hip/butt area. This is lower that the impact area, so it must be a muscle that is connected to the spine where I broke it. Frustrating.
I just got done making a bunch of phone calls. It looks like this will be a long process getting everything settled with the insurance company. I am still waiting on the two hospitals to send the medical records to my doctor. We need to see them so we can make a case against the insurance company for not covering my hospital stay. Even if they do cover everything, the co-pays will add up to about $500. And that does not include future expenses such as doctor appointments with specialists and physical therapy. I am trying not to worry to much about the money (can't put a price on your health, right?), but I can't help having anxiety about it in the back of my mind. As long as I continue to get quality care, I will be happy.
Ha, ha, it's snowing. And two days ago it was almost 80 degrees. That's springtime in Virginia. I would get up and take a picture but I am too comfy here on the couch. Plus the snow is not sticking.

This morning I got a visit from a male downy woodpecker. He loves to eat the suet. Yesterday the bluebirds were here for several minutes. They like to eat the suet that falls onto the baffle. They are so light that they don't tip the baffle when they hop around on it.
From Our Backyard Birds

Anyway, just woke up and everything feels pretty good. Yesterday around mid-day I tried to dial down the pain meds and that was not a good idea. I wanted to see where I stood with pain and healing. Well, I am not healed, and it still really hurts without pain meds. It took the rest of the day to get the pain back under control. And Tom was annoyed with me. So I won't be doing that again.

Tom is leaving this afternoon for the weekend. He made this appointment several weeks ago to see his tax guy in nj. I have been complaining about this to him since we moved to va. I don't minding making a nice trip to stay with Tom's family (5+ hour drive), but it is hard when you have to make the appointment months in advance and stick to it no matter what. So there is no flexibility in the visit. We have to scan and email the documents ahead of time, and then when we get there, we discuss the results, make a few changes if necessary, and sign the papers. Why can't we do the second part over a phone conference, and then mail the documents we need to sign? Better yet, why can't we find a local tax guy? I understand that a good tax guy is valuable, but I believe in working local. Oh well. I seem to be losing this battle, especially because tom handles most of the finances.

My dad will be here later today to take care of me for the weekend. He was a big help last week, and I am looking forward to spending some more time with him. I am able to get around with the walker, but I can't stand in one place for very long, and I can't crouch, bend over, twist, or reach for something in a cabinet. And I can't lift anything over a few pounds. For example, I have to use my elbow to flush the toilet before I get up, because it hurts too much to bend over and reach for the handle once I am standing. I also having trouble lifting my laptop, so I have to slide it off my lap onto the couch next to me.

Still no word on the ortho doc. It is getting frustrating. Luckily they answer the phones there, but I would rather go over there and prod them in person.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Took all my pain meds around midnight last night, and awoke fairly pain-free and spasm-free. That seems to be the trick. Or I am just getting better. I still can't bend at my torso, left/right or forward/back. And I still had some pain and spasms once I starting moving around this morning before I took my meds.

Still waiting for my doctor's office to call with an appointment to the orthopedic doctor.

One side effect I have noticed is blurred vision. It's not just tired-blurry. I can't read the info on the a/v receiver, and that is bothersome. The computer screen is blurry too. And squinting doesn't help. I have always had perfect or better that perfect vision. I hope it goes away when I get off the meds.

Another beautiful morning here is cville. It's a little too cold to open the windows, but the birds don't seem to mind. The goldfinches are fighting for the right to perch on the thistle feeder.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Today was a good day. The weather was warm and sunny, and Tom took me out for errands. The car ride is getting more bearable, as long as it is not too long or bumpy. First we stopped at my doctor's office to pick up some forms, the to the DMV to pick up a handicapped parking placard. I thought that I had to be there in person to get it, but it turned out that I didn't. Oh least I got out of the house.

Sitting at the DMV for 20 minutes was difficult. The chairs there are very hard and uncomfortable, especially for someone in my condition. So I stood and paced slowly in the back of the room and that helped keep my muscles warm and loose. [The physical therapist from the hospital said I need to do plenty of walking, as much as I can every day without hurting myself.]

Today was my first public appearance since the accident (besides the doctor office). Everyone at the DMV stared at me and I did not like that. They were probably thinking, "What is that young lady with no cast or splint doing with a walker?? She must be faking it to get handicapped plates." Ok, so maybe they weren't thinking all that, but they sure were staring. Now I have a new appreciation for handicapped people; and I have appreciation for handicapped ramps, doors, bathrooms, elevators, parking...etc.

So far I can't go without the walker. I have tried it at home, but it makes a big difference, and I can't swing my right leg all the way forward when I take a step on that side. Plus I use my arms to keep the weight off my back. The walker makes me move more slowly and carefully overall.

Overall the pain was well managed today, even when I was up and about. It's the muscle spasms that creep up on me. Very sharp and painful. Sometimes it takes several seconds for them to go away. I have to concentrate, breathe, relax...

I am still waiting on my doctor office to get back with me on the orthopedic doctor referral. I called today and they are working on it, but I am anxious to see the specialist so hopefully I can get my referral for physical therapy. I can't wait to start physical therapy because it means progress. It means moving around and getting better without the fear of re-injuring myself. And maybe the ortho doc will give me a back brace so I will look as handicapped as I feel.

Our friends Jenny and Jere from the outdoor club were here tonight. Tom made coffee and cinnamon buns for us all, and we looked at pictures of the Harper's Ferry trip last weekend that we had to cancel because of my injury. It was very nice having them over and really helped lift my spirits. Jenny is planning on another trip this fall to the same place, and I should be up for it by then.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

The morning sun is hitting the trees in the back of our house so they are painted in gold. I am not usually up this early so I don't get to see this. Also, I think I hear a frog or toad croaking from under the back deck. The birds are very active this time of day too. There is a tufted titmouse pair who nest every spring in a tree hole in the woods behind our house. The male is very vocal right now with his 'peter-peter' call.
From Our Backyard Birds

I missed my monthly bird walk last Saturday morning. Let's hope I am healed enough for the next one.
Woke up several times this morning to shooting pain in my butt/hip. It seemed to come out of nowhere, and it was not due to a bad position. My ribs and spine hurt too, but it is more of a dull ache. No major muscle spasms like yesterday. I took the longer lasting newly prescribed med last night before bed along with the new muscle relaxer. The pain med must have worn off a good amount because my head feels wonderfully clear. Usually it takes a lot of mental effort and time to write these posts because I can't think of the words and I make a lot of typos. So right now I am waiting for Tom to wake up and make breakfast because I can't take pills without food.

Some friends are coming over wednesday night. I am really looking forward to it.

I am trying to use this time to organize my large stock of photographs and videos. Here are two collages of our visit to maker's mark during our vacation last summer.
I would like to know which one you all like better.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Tom took me to my doctor today. It was nice getting outside, but it was hard getting in and out of the car. Other than that, the pain meds did their job and lasted through the appointment. Dr D and his student poked, pushed, and prodded, and asked a lot of questions. Tom was a big help because I was having trouble putting sentences together.

Dr D gave me an Rx for a longer lasting pain med so I don't wake up in pain. He also gave me a different muscle relaxer for the muscle spasms that seem to be getting worse on the current med. The key is not to let the pain get bad and then take meds, but keep the level constant to prevent pain all the time. Sounds like a good plan to me. Then he referred me to an orthopedic doc to make sure things are healing properly. No physical therapy scheduled at this time, Dr D is going to leave that up to the ortho doc.

We spent over an hour at the office, and I was grateful the office was not too busy. I am also grateful Tom was able to take time out of work to take me to the doc's office. Not only am I not allowed to drive, but I needed him there to ask and answer questions and take notes. He seems stressed lately with all the pressure of taking care of me and catching up with his work from last week.
Another beautiful crisp spring day here in Charlottesville. I slept on the recliner last night and did not wake until 9 or so. Tom said he was downstairs at least once and he did not want to wake me. I asked him to wake me for now on when he gets up because if I let it go too long like this morning, I will eventually awaken with a lot of pain. This morning it is the muscle spasms across much of my middle and lower back and side that make it hard to breathe. So I had breakfast (yummy leftover pancakes Tom made yesterday morning) and took my meds, and now I am concentrating on my breathing so it won't hurt.

I have an appointment today at 3:30 with my primary care physician. I have seen Dr. Davidson a few times in the year and a half since we moved here. He treated my tennis elbow, posion ivy, acne, and minor lower back strain from last month (do I sound like a wreck or what? but really, overall, I am very healthy). I think he is a good doctor, and he listens to me. Sometimes Dr. D has a student who spends a lot of time with me beforehand, and that is just fine with me. He also called me back at home last week when I left a message about my nausea problems. As for this visit, I want to update him and hopefully get an Rx for physical therapy. Maybe even get something different for muscle spasms, because the flexaril does not seem to work that well for me.

Another complication has arose recently. Our insurance company. They denied my hospital stay at Roanoke Memorial. They claimed that it was not necessary because of several different reasons, but it seems that they did not get the records or bills yet from Pocahontas. We are going to wait it out for now and hope they change their minds on their own after they get the whole story. Otherwise we have 180 days to dispute in writing. And if all else fails, Tom's employer, Texas Instruments, has a good advocate program. I was really upset when I first learned about it (I think the pain pills make me emotional), but now I am pretty calm. We can deal with it later.

On a lighter note, I spotted a large bird of prey in our back yard. It was either a cooper's hawk or a sharp-shinned hawk. He was probably looking for prey among our bird feeder guests. Luckily he did not stay long.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Feeling pretty good right now. The birds are chirping and Tom is in a good mood. I learned that a little caffeine goes a long way to counteract the sleepy and dopey side effects of the meds.

Tom cooked an awesome meal of steak and veggies on the barbie. My appetite is getting better.

We are in the middle of remodeling our living room (you know, that extra room across from the dinning room that no one ever uses except maybe formal company). A few weeks ago we bought a bunch of book cases from ikea.

Here's our to-do list:
  • paint the walls and trim
  • install lighting
  • make or buy bay window treatment
  • assemble and install book cases
  • pick out new furniture
  • cover the seat cushions of an old chair
  • build a bench seat in front of the bay window
  • sort through my books and trinkets, get rid of a lot of stuff
  • stock the shelves and decorate

We only got as far as emptying the room and some of the lighting before I was injured. Tom is currently finishing the lighting and will be painting soon. I feel really bad that I can't help him. (Home improvement is a past-time for us. Tom helped me renovate my condo in Herndon.)

I have been procrastinating with cleaning out the boxes that have been there since we moved in (some are from my parents' house of old things that belong to me). Now I wish I could work on it, but I can't. This injury is making me see my life differently, and my need to set the right priorities. Ok God, I get the message. Can you make me better now?
Last night was hard. I went six hours between pain med doses without realizing it, and I now know how much pain I could be in. I could not find a comfortable position that did not hurt. The pain is sharp and hot, and almost brought me to tears. It seemed to take forever for the meds to take effect again. But eventually it did, and I got to sleep around 1:30am.

I am trying to take the lowest dose with as much time between as I can stand. For example, the Rx reads "1-2 tabs every 4-6 hours." Last night I took 1 tab over six hours, and that let the pain creep in. Also, it seems that more is needed to get the same pain relief. I am really worried about getting hooked on the meds, but I don't like the pain, so I am willing to take that chance and deal with it later.

I am also worried about gaining weight from this whole ordeal. My appetite is low, but I have to eat something with every pain med dose or it makes me throw up. And of course I am not getting much exercise except for my trice daily hobbles around the kitchen island.

Well, this dose of pain meds is starting to take effect and it is getting hard to type. Here is a picture of me with the flowers my work sent me.
From Blogger Pictures

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Oh shower, how I love thee.

Last night I made it up the stairs and got a shower. Tom helped me, and I never appreciated a shower more, other than maybe after a weekend of summer backpacking. Then I got to sleep in bed next to Tom, which I really missed too. That was about 10:30pm. Pretty early night for a Friday, but oh well, I do have a broken back.

I awoke at 6am needing to pee and I tried to get up without waking Tom. I realized how much harder it is to get out of bed than the recliner. The hard part is sitting up or rolling onto my side and pushing myself up. All of my pain meds wore off (my last dose was 6pm last night) and I ended up waking Tom anyway with my yelp of pain.

Tom helped me out of bed and down the stairs to the recliner, fixed me breakfast so I could take my pain meds, and went back to sleep. So now I am sitting here wide awake, waiting for them to take effect, hoping the spasm will call down. Since I am not dopey, I got through a whole episode of Sarah Connor. Thank God for DVRs.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Spring Fever

The weather is so nice here and the weekend is supposed to be even nicer this weekend. I may hobble onto the back deck for a little while. Just having the window cracked is refreshing. I will never again take springtime for granted.

My dad is really enjoying our backyard bird feeders, and I posted some of his pics on my web album.

I had another good night of sleep, except for waking up once for a muscle spasm in my lower back. So I just adjusted my position and went right back to sleep. Walking is getting easier and less painful, but I still use the walker to shift the weight off my back. I think I might try the stairs tonight, so I can get a shower and sleep in my own bed.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Doing better

I just found a feature in facebook that allows you to simulaneously publish an outside blog on your facebook notes. So you all can leave comments in either location.

The pain is well managed, but the meds make me sleepy and stupid. I can't get through a half-hour show without falling asleep. Working on the computer is good because it keeps my mind awake and active.

Still have lots of nausea, but I am keeping down the food and meds. The major pain is located just below my waist to the right of center. So went I lift my leg while reclining or try to pull the recliner lever up with my right arm, it really hurts. Walking is still difficult, but less painful than yesterday. I still can't walk without the walker because I need to use my arms to take the weight off my legs and back. Laying back in the recliner is relatively painless, but I really hurts when I cough or hickup.

My employer Aker Wade Power Technologies send me flowers and it really helped lift my spirits. I miss work and all my buddies there.

Our house is two stories, with no full bath or bedroom on the first floor. I now know why retieries buy single-story or first-floor-masters houses. I want a regular shower so bad, but I can't get up the stairs at this time. When I do, it will be a major milestone for me. My parents are going through the same situation with my 86 year young grandmother who can get up the stairs on her own in my parent's house.

My dad will be leaving Friday afternoon when Tom gets back from his customer calls. I will miss him. He has been a big help and keeping me company (when I am awake).

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

I slept through the night, and awoke in minimal amount of pain. My first day home was hard. I had trouble keeping down the meds, so I gave up and went without pain pills or muscle relaxors for most of the day. Took a round of meds around 6 with food and doing better. I am walking on my own with a walker.

Had to cancel my slim-down class at acac (my gym here in cville). For $30 you get a consultation with a specialist, weekly weigh-ins and meetings. I tried a meeting and signed up Friday before the accident. Also, it looks like they will put a hold on my membership (not charge me) until I am well enough to go again, but I have to call in the morning.

My dad has been great. Tom has been at work all day and would have had to cancel some very important meetings.

The hospital sent all of the CT scans home with me on cd, so I was able to guess where the fractures were.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Glad To Be Home; Many Thanks To All

just got home. drive went fast, not too painful, just reclined the seat a little and slept the whole way. my dad is here to help.

thank you again, all of you, for your well wishes. my biggest worry for the next few days is keeping up my spirits. I have already had to cancel several adventures I had scheduled, and the thought of spending a lovely charlottesville spring in bed is disheartening. karate, triathlon, everglades trip, harpers ferry trip, bird club walks, ..... Please feel free to call or come by so I don't get so lonely.
hospital water is back on. felling better but pain meds make me sleepy. keep getting woken up by nurses, ha. but they are all good and nice and helpful. i kicked tom out of the room to the lounge so he could get some work done.
Thank you all for your kind words. It really means a lot to me. We both got a good night sleep, and a resident was just here. It seems we did not see any docs yesterday because they make their rounds early in the morning, and I was admitted after that.

The goal is to leave today! I just have to get up and walk and pee. We will see.

Roanoke had a water main break, so the hospital has no water.

Monday, March 2, 2009

The nurses here are wonderful, the bed is comfortable, and the equipment is state-of-the-art. I am using leg constrictors to prevent blood clots because I have not walked since the accident. My last dose of IV pain meds was about 4pm, and now I am on oral meds. The doctor(s) will be here early in the morning to talk to me some more, and therapist will try to get me to walk. As for the body functions, they must all be normal before I can leave.

Tom was able to get some work done today in between taking care of me, and is now resting comfortably in his convertible chair-bed next to me. He has been so wonderful to me that I cannot express enough gratification in words or hugs.

As for these long letters, I love to journal, and I have written between naps. And there is nothing better to do but lay here and watch bad tv. If the grammar and spelling is bad, I apologize and blame it on the drugs. This way I have a good record and people can read it so I don’t have to repeat myself :)

Thanks again for all of your well wishes. I guess I never realized how many new friends we have in cville. It lifts me up knowing that I have friends and family thinking of me and praying for my recovery.

The Accident

It was my first run on my second day of skiing at Snowshoe. I decided at the last minute to ski on Sunday because of the snow overnight would make for nice conditions. Tom went on home to Charlottesville, and I stayed behind with Raphael, another club member.

[I have been skiing on a regular basis for 7 years. I even took advanced lessons a few times on trips with the Washington DC ski club. Yesterday I started the black diamond trails at Silver Creek.]

Around 10 am, I started skiing and realized right away that my legs were tired and unstable from the previous day, but I felt that I just needed to take it easy and warm up. But only after about a minute on the Upper Flume, I fell and slid off the edge of the trail. Then I hit a tree broadside with my right lower back. The wind was knocked out of me, but I never lost consciousness and I was wearing my helmet. No one saw me fall, and Raphael was ahead of me and did not know what happened.

After I realized I could not crawl up the embankment, I thought that I was going to be there for a while. The ski traffic was light because it was Sunday and early in the morning. But I did not panic and I listened so I could time my cry for help (I was having trouble breathing, and it was hard to yell loud, probably because of the rib fracture that I learned of later). After about three tries, a nice lady skiing with her two kids heard me, called ski patrol, and then crawled down the embankment so stay with me until help came. So it was only about 1 minute until I was found, and less than 2 or 3 minutes for ski patrol to get there.

Ski Patrol

I was thoroughly impressed with ski patrol at Snowshoe. All the proper procedures were followed, and they used the backboard to hoist me up on to the trail. Then I got a sled ride down to the Ballhooter lift, which was bumpy and seemed to take forever. I felt bad for the other skiers when they had to stop the lift for so long to load and unload me. Next was the stinky, bumpy ride behind the snowmobile to the Snowshoe clinic. Both rides were really painful because I was on a hard backboard and they strapped my legs down flat to the board which put a lot of stress on my hip and lower back.

Once the Snowshoe doctor decided that I was going to the the hospital, he gave me some morphine which helped only a little. They wanted to cut off my ski clothes, but I would not let them. It was a long bumpy ride to Pocahontas Memorial Hospital, 30 miles/45 minutes.


From Snowshoe II 2009

Pocahontas Memorial Hospital is a very small acute care facility, but the service was good and quick and the people were nice. They did x-rays right away, but it seemed like forever until they took me off the backboard. Then they did CT scans with contrast in the little building next door. The scans were emailed to another facility, and 20 minutes later, the diagnosis was one fractured rib and three fractured lumbar transverse process (little mini ribs that stick out of your spine). I was very fortunate that I did not break the part of the vertebra around the spinal cord or damage any internal organs.

I am not sure when Rafel showed up, but he was very helpful with calling Tom, getting the nurse for me, and keeping me company. AND I found out he is a neurologist. He was able to answer a lot of questions I had about long term nerve damage, among other things. Eventually the ER doctor released me and I tried to get into the wheelchair to go home with Raphael. It was the worse pain I ever felt, and I had to be helped back onto the bed. I realized that there was no way I could sit in a car for the long ride back through the mountains.

So the ER doctor admitted me to the hospital and I told my friend that he should head home since Tom was on his way. Time went by fast because I was sleeping, and soon Tom was there to rescue me. But the doctor was worried because I could not urinate naturally (without a catheter). So he decided to transfer me to Roanoke Memorial Hospital because there could be other neurological problems that were beyond the scope of the facility.

Transport to Roanoke

We left Pocahontas at 1:30 am via ambulance transport in a snow/sleet storm. Tom followed in the Subaru and I was worried about him staying awake, but he pulled through. I slept off/on the whole way, but the beginning of the trip was painful because the roads were very windy and bumpy. They made the stretcher was as comfortable as they could with extra foam pads and pillows. Three hours later we arrived at the Roanoke ER.

Roanoke Memorial Hospital is very nice and a big contrast to Pocahontas. They sent me for another CT of my spine and gave me more IV pain meds. Tom and I spent the rest of the morning, until 10 am, in the ER. I don‘t remember much of this part because of the valium, but I talked to several doctors, including a trauma doctor. If I did get a diagnosis from the doctor for the last CT, I don’t remember it. But I don't need surgery, thank God.