In A Nutshell

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Despite being diagnosed with Fibromyalgia about a decade ago, I was able to work and lead a "normal" life, until I became severely ill with MS type symptoms one month after being laid off in June 2009, which meant no health insurance to properly address the problem. I spent 3 days in the hospital but since they initially did not want to keep me (one doc said I may have MS, but was overruled), I did not qualify for the financial aid for hospital bills because they did not think I belonged there. I was misdiagnosed with Labyrintits and sent on my way. I was told it would go away in a few weeks, that was 3 years ago and I have had the symptoms of dizziness, balance problems, vertigo, and pain every day since then. I went to a local free health clinic until they told me they exhausted all their options and could not help me any longer. I cannot drive nor work outside the home and only walk briefly with the aid of a cane, but also can't get disability because I have no real diagnosis for these particular symptoms. These are the chronicles of my (so far) dead-end journey riddled with bodies of good intentions.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

What's in my Head

I never cease to be amazed at how I uncover information that is relevant to me as an individual when doing research for articles I have to write. A few weeks ago, I had to read up on something that was related to different massage therapies for a client. Among those I found one called myofascial release, which treats myofascial pain. What is all this? It is a massage technique that works by applying "low load" pressure to the myofascial connective tissue that gets stuck together in order to restore motion and get rid of pain. Huh?

In a nutshell: Our bodies have a soft tissue just below the skin called superficial fascia. It connects all our nerves, muscles, bones and blood vessels. Fascia and  muscles together are called the myofascia system.

According to Dr. John F. Barnes, myofascial pain is classified as: "Trauma, inflammatory responses, and/or surgical procedures create Myofascial restrictions that can produce tensile pressures of approximately 2,000 pounds per square inch on pain sensitive structures that do not show up in many of the standard tests (x-rays, myelograms, CAT scans, electromyography, etc.)" Read more about it on the Mayo Clinic website. (It's funny how they recommend to see a doctor for it).

This applies to me as I was diagnosed with myofascial pain syndrome years ago by a chiropractor. Why did I never research it before now? For one, no one around here takes a diagnosis by a chiropractor serious so I never gave it much thought. Secondly, it's just one of a laundry list of conditions and doctors tune out by the time they hear the word syndrome. They are much more likely to listen, and lecture, if you if have visible problems, like obesity.

Lastly, I figured as long as I was going there he would "treat" it with whatever he was doing. Little did I know that he didn't, nor did he ever talk to me about how to treat it. Why diagnose me then in the first place and why am I bringing this up now, years after stopping chiropractic treatments due to financial reasons?

Well, I like to face my demons and drag them out into the light, and I can't do that without naming them. Mine have mostly medical names, and this one just happens to be one that's joining the ranks. Also, others with the same diagnosis may gain an understanding when reading this. After all, no one (outside 12-step programs) goes around introducing themselves with: "Hello, my name is and I have MFPS." Or FMS, or CFS, or diabetes, or rheumatoid arthritis, or whatever.

And last, but not least, I am now prepared to have an intelligent explanation when the next doctor tells me again "the pain is in your head." Besides, "normal" people like facts and figures, and 2,000 pounds per square inch of pressure is a good description of what this pain feels like.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

The Battle Rages On

Well, this morning I had my appointment at yet another health clinic for my "assessment." (refer to this post).

I must admit, after my prior bad experiences with "free" clinics and the "system" in general, I came in expecting the worst and with my virtual Xena armor firmly in place. Arriving 15 minutes early, despite knowing how this works (when is the last time even a regular doctor's office has processed you on time?), my bad suspicions seemed confirmed when they asked me if I had already filled out my paperwork and if I had my prescription bottle on me.

Since they had only told me to bring financial documentation to this appointment, I thought to myself: here we go again. After some word-wrangling and my explanation of the above, they gave me the paper work and I sat down to fill it out.

Half way through, I stopped, read again, and had to start laughing. Other people stared at me, but I am used to that anyway. Walking around with balance problems and a cane has gotten me used to that. What was so funny? Well, the health questions. Did they ask me about cancer, smoking, diabetes and all the usual suspects? Nope. The first question was: "have you had sexual partners since 1979? If so, more than one?" From there it got better: "Have any of your partners done IV drugs, are any of them bisexual?" There was more, but I must have blocked it out because I can't remember the sordid details. And this was just the financial screening, not a health appointment!

The following page had me in hysterics again: I had to sign off on a statement that said: "We are committed to treating you with the ultimate dignity ..." Again, I can't remember the rest, probably because I was laughing so hard. Whether it was that or my loud comment "dignity is for people with health insurance," they saw me right after I dropped the paper work off at the desk, despite a full waiting room. I bet all the other patients were glad.

The intake specialist simply looked over my paper work, asked some other, less probing questions, and I was done. I have my actual first doctor's appointment February 29, that is the first available time slot they had. They did write me a prescription for my thyroid medication because I literally begged because I have been taking way less than I am supposed to to stretch the dose. What happens if you don't take it? Well, it's not pleasant, but I digress.

Free here, like anywhere else, does not mean free of course. I was informed that I would have to pay for my own specialist tests (so much for trying to get a diagnosis), and prescriptions.

It isn't that I am expecting anything free. And, to silence the other tax payers who do not want to pay for "riff raff": Yes, I do still pay taxes on my writing income. I simply expect those who do not need these services to stop telling me that I can get "free healthcare," if I just looked. Also, this is Crossover Ministries, a faith-based organization totally dependent on donations.

Regardless, I went to get my thyroid prescription filled and I am grateful for the services I received today, even though it takes away from more important things in my budget. What is more important than health, people may ask? Good question.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

The Difference Between a Hand Up and a Hand-Out

"As we go down life's lonesome highway
Seems the hardest thing to do
Is to find a friend or two
A helping hand
Someone who understands" (Lionel Richie)

I am not expecting the government or any organizations to be that friend. However, it does not take a friend to offer a hand up. The news lately, among the usual daily gloom and doom, has reported stories where strangers pull people from burning cars and submerged vehicles, without a second thought, proving that human decency is not extinct yet.

Unfortunately, as more people in the U.S. are at the end of their allotted unemployment benefits (becoming 99ers), they aren't the only scared ones. The ones who have a job look at people like myself and seem to mask their own fear with a sort of disdain. This shows in comments I often read on social media and hear in interviews, which include something along the lines of "I do not want my money to pay for the ones who do not work."

Is it subconscious fear of losing their jobs and becoming like us, or is it because they do not get compensated enough for the work they do? I remember those days, just before my layoff, when raises were non-existent and the only pat on the back you got was "be glad you have a job." And no, this is not about 99 percent or one percent or a baker's dozen, or whatever. It's not about numbers, it's about people. It's the type of comments that I've mentioned above that kept me in the closet for a long time, before I had the courage to tell people about my situation.

Now, let's examine private insurance. Think about it: We all pay or have paid money for car insurance, health insurance or life insurance. Let's use the first example: Even those of us who have no car accidents, still pay insurance. The money the good drivers pay goes towards paying out benefits of those who have accidents and towards share holder profits - it's simple economics. Same with health insurance. The money we pay in, but don't use, either ends up being used for other insured people, or as profits for the company. People have no problem that private insurance companies make profits, but no one wants to "pay for people who aren't working."

Well, what about our money that we paid into taxes and benefits? Many who are jobless or disabled have been contributing members of society for many years. Besides, the money I make now from writing is still taxable, so yes, I am still paying taxes. However, it's not enough to live on. Ironically, my efforts at making money are hindering me in obtaining help to get my illness diagnosed and treated. Yet, the illness keeps me from making more money or working a better job. If I could, I then could spend money to boost the economy. On the other hand, I do not trust the government any more than I do private organizations who make millions in profit. Where is the answer then?

There is a saying I've adopted: "There are two sides to every story, and then there is the truth."

No, most people, like me, do not want a handout, simply a hand up.