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And the (Medical) Hits Just Keep on Coming!

Remember how I said Dave had the same abdominal pain that I did earlier this week?  And I thought maybe we had something viral?  Well, it turns out Dave’s pain was an entirely different animal!

He woke up feeling fine on Saturday morning and went over to my mom’s to continue painting – when I woke up, I just found a happy note from him (“Good morning, sunshine!”) letting me know where he was and that he’d be back by 10 am.

He came back and I could tell something was wrong, but I couldn’t tell if it was maybe some catastrophe that happened at my mom’s, or if he was having some side effects from the Hep C treatment or what.  He told me that the pain had come back, and he thought it was some terrible gas attack.  He stretched out on the floor and said that lying flat made it feel a lot better, so we assumed he was dealing with my Weird Stomach Troubles.

As the afternoon progressed, he said he was pretty sure it was something else – he could feel really bad pain when he urinated, and it was more in the back on his left side (my pain was more in front, like the pelvic area, and not the back).  We checked the possible side effects from his Hep C treatment, but nothing was mentioned about pain like this…nausea and loss of appetite, yes, but not severe pain.

Of course we got online and started researching, and then kidney stones seemed like a real possibility.  After he read some horror stories about guys having instruments inserted into their ‘delicate personal area’ to extract the stone, he decided he would ride it out at home until he passed it on his own.  So he started guzzling water and riding out the pain, assuring me that he could handle it and there was no way that he needed to go to the ER.  Since he’s as stubborn as me, I didn’t push him on it…I just told him to let me know if he changed his mind.

Around 7:30, we were watching TV and I could tell he wasn’t even paying attention to the show; he was closing his eyes and grimacing in pain.  I asked again if he wanted to go to the ER; first he said that maybe he’d go in the morning, if it wasn’t better.  About 10 minutes later, he finally decided he’d rather go NOW, thank you very much.  So we headed out around 7:45, after making sure we had his Hep C information.  I briefly thought about bringing his morning meds in case he was admitted, but I decided against it.  I also confirmed I had backup CI batteries in my purse, since they usually run down in the late evening.

We got to the VA hospital (about a 30 minute drive since there wasn’t much traffic) and the waiting room was empty.  Dave walked up to check in and the lady at the desk said, “Oh my, you look like you’re in a LOT of pain.”  That was putting it mildly!  By this time he was walking like an old man, hunched over and shuffling.  The intake nurse called him back pretty quickly; I made sure to go with since he was having trouble hearing and really kind of out of it from the pain.  His blood pressure was 150/90, which is by far the highest I’ve ever seen it – Dave always has perfect (enviable) blood pressure.   I noticed that the nurse repeated everything back to him when he was finished, to confirm his symptoms, and I was impressed – I had never seen them do that before.  I assumed it was because he was hard of hearing.  I did notice that the VA seems to deal with hearing impairment better than other hospitals I’ve been in, possibly because they see it more with veterans than with the general population.

We went back out to wait for about five minutes before being called back to a room.  Then we sat, and sat, and sat some more.  A nurse came in and collected Dave’s urine sample and said the doctor would be in soon.  I would say it was close to 9:30 or 9:45 before he came in.  I was starting to get a little pissed; I mean, Dave was in so much pain and it felt like we were being ignored even though the ER seemed to be pretty empty.

Finally though, things started moving along and we ended up being really pleased with how the whole visit was handled.  He was seen by the doctor, then the nurse came back to draw blood and right after that they took him for a CT scan.  I expected that to take forever; I remember checking my watch and it was 10:08, so I figured he might be back around 11:30.  He came wheeling back in at 10:22!  Then we waited again, for a long time.  After about 30 or 45 minutes, the nurse came back and gave Dave some morphine.  FINALLY.  At that point, he was so much better – it really took away his pain and made him more lucid.

We were chatting away and boom, my right CI battery died.  I grabbed my purse, slipped on a replacement battery and…nothing.  The battery was dead.  So I put the other replacement battery on, and same thing – dead.  I couldn’t believe it!  It’s been a long time since I used the batteries in my purse and I never dreamed they would just go dead without using them, but I guess that’s what happened.  So there I was with only one functional ‘ear’ at about 11:15.  I checked my left CI and I saw two flashes when I slipped the battery on and off.  Four flashes means the battery is fully charged, so this one was at least halfway gone, possibly more.  I decided to just take it off and go au naturel, since I can understand Dave fine when I can’t hear.  I wanted to save my hearing for when the doctor came to talk to us, and also in case I had to drive home alone (if Dave was admitted) so that I could hear the GPS.

This was another loooong period of waiting, while they waited for someone to read the CT scan.  Since Dave was able to talk and no longer in horrible pain, we spent a lot of time chatting and practicing sign language.  He was teaching me – I still need lots of practice!  At one point they came in and took him for an X-ray; that went just as quickly as the CT scan.  Finally, the doctor came back and confirmed that Dave had a 2mm kidney stone.  They were giving him three medications (pain meds, antibiotic and Flomax to help his muscles relax) as well as a strainer so he can (hopefully) catch the stone.  They told him to call Urology on Monday and tell them he needs an appointment.  He is really, really hoping he will pass the stone on his own before the appointment!!

It was pretty funny – the doctor was talking to him about using the strainer when he urinated and Dave said, “Oh no, I don’t strain when I pee.”  And I could see this look of amusement pass over the doctor’s face – he was standing on Dave’s deaf side (as was everyone that walked into the room, since they entered on his left, which is deaf) and he finally realized Dave was misunderstanding him.  But I thought it was a pretty easy thing to misunderstand – we cracked up over that later on!

The doctor left and Dave went off to go the bathroom (his seventh time since we entered the ER).  The original nurse had left for the evening, and the intake nurse had taken over for her.  While Dave was gone, she came in the room, kind of excited, and asked if we knew sign language.  I showed her the CI I was holding, told her I was deaf and my batteries were dying so I was preserving them, and put the CI on to talk to her.  She pulled her hair back and said, “I have CIs too!  Two of them!”  It was so awesome!  I realized that was probably the reason she repeated everything back to us during intake – to make sure she heard it correctly.  She knew sign language well, and explained that she had seen us signing earlier.  I told her that Dave was teaching me, since I just lost all of my hearing five years ago and didn’t know many signs.  Then I told her that we actually met online through a hearing loss support group, the SayWhat Club.  Her eyes lit up and she said she’d been looking for something like that; she had been a member of ALDA many years back.  We were having a great time, talking about SHHH and ALDA, and I recommended SWC, HLAA and the Illinois Cochlear Implant Chapter to her.  Dave came back and joined in the conversation; it was just a really nice surprise and an upbeat way to end the evening.

We went off to wait at the pharmacy for his medications, and finally headed back home a little after 1 am.  We got home between 1 and 1:45, fed our outdoor kitty (Goldie) who was waiting impatiently on the deck for her midnight snack, and collapsed into bed a little after 2 am.  We’re usually in bed by 11 pm so it was weird to be up that late and not even tired!

Dave is making pie crust while I type, and his pain meds are doing the job.  Hopefully this medical crisis will resolve itself quickly for him and we can get back to focusing on one medical treatment at a time!

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Road Trip

Dave and I went to the HLAA Convention that was held in Nashville, TN in June (HLAA stands for Hearing Loss Association of America).  It’s rare to find an event like this that we can both enjoy, so I was really looking forward to it.  We’ve done conventions for candle making quite a few times before, and they are always a bit frustrating…trying to talk to strangers in huge exhibit halls or at dinner, around a table with 10 other people.  We would attend workshops and never really understand what was being said, unless we could get the front row (for lip reading purposes) and if the person used a microphone.  (Most of the time they seemed uncomfortable with a microphone.)

I’m not really a terribly shy person, but I have a hard time with small talk and usually will not approach someone I don’t know.  My biggest fear is starting to talk to someone and realizing they have an accent, or talk very softly, or are hard to lip read.  It’s easier to avoid eye contact and stay by myself than get stuck in an uncomfortable conversation with a stranger.

But we knew the events at the HLAA convention would have CART, which means that someone would listen and type what was being said, and it would display on a big screen at the front of the room.  They captioned not only the main speaker but also audience comments and questions, which is so helpful.  I can never understand what people are saying if they ask a question or make a comment from the audience.

The convention was held at the Opryland Hotel, which is truly huge and breathtaking inside.  It’s like walking in an air conditioned rain forest!  I appreciated the chance to get a lot of walking in (and we both lost about 4 pounds over vacation, which was a nice plus…LOL).  The convention center was attached to the hotel…the only trick was not getting lost on your way there!  🙂

We drove in on Thursday morning, and it was about 8 or 9 hours from Illinois to Nashville (including all of our little potty and food breaks).  One thing that we didn’t take into consideration was that registration closed at 4:00.  I never thought we would get there that late, and we actually did arrive around 3:30 or so.  But finding a place to park and then finding the registration area in the convention center took quite a while…by the time we arrived, it was 4:20 and closed down.  This meant we didn’t get our tote bags, program books, name tags, etc. until the next morning, when registration re-opened.   I wasn’t sure if we would be allowed into the events that evening (the opening ceremony and get acquainted party) without name tags.  A very nice girl who had been working the registration desk was still there and gave us temporary tags to wear.  Next year we’ll be sure to time things so we get there before registration closes!

This was our first vacation in 7 years so we made sure to work in lots of down time in addition to the workshops and exhibit hall visits.  It was really perfect because just walking around the hotel was a fun event in itself!

We went to the opening ceremony and then decided to forego the get acquainted party because we didn’t have name tags (the temporary ones didn’t have our names on them, just the name of the convention we were attending).  We walked in and looked around but it was so loud and everyone was already in groups talking, that we felt weird ‘crashing’ the groups and trying to explain who we were.  We decided to call it an early night to recover from all the driving, and get a fresh start in the morning.

We spent the next couple of days attending workshops and spending lots of time in the exhibit hall.  It was filled with so many interesting vendors, and it was where we ran into the most people.  I spent a lot of time at the Advanced Bionics booth, finally getting to meet in person so many of the people I’ve met online over the past year.  There is NO way to describe how exciting it is!  It’s not like meeting a stranger, and it just adds this amazing dimension to the friendship.

If you’ve ever wondered if it’s worth going to a convention like this, the answer is yes!!  What makes the difference for me is knowing that everyone there either has a hearing loss or knows you have one, so they make that extra effort when you communicate.  Lip reading is infinitely easier for me in these situations, and I’m never afraid to strike up a conversation like I usually am.  I felt comfortable walking up to the various vendors and asking questions, walking up to people I recognized and introducing myself, etc.  Normally I would just never do that.  By the end of the convention, I was even striking up conversations with total strangers.  Having that common bond of hearing loss just seems to make it easier for me.

We got to try out the new CapTel 800i phone – Dave made a phone call with it so we could see how delayed the captions were and how it sounded.  He was blown away!  I still avoid the phone like the plague, and I think this will be a great rehabilitation tool for me.  It’s not on the market yet but should be soon, and we’re on a mailing list to be notified so we can get one as soon as it’s out.  This way I’ll be able to listen with the phone and get used to hearing over the phone line, but I’ll have the captions to fall back on if I can’t hear.  I think this will really eliminate much of my phone phobia, so I’m pretty excited about it.  I know a lot of people complain about CapTel phones and say the captions are wrong or take too long, but it’s still better than nothing.  And as I said, the new phone really performed well when we tried it out, so we’re looking forward to getting one.

I think the hardest part of the convention was the birthday dinner – there was music playing, and just the room itself was already very loud with all the people talking.  Once they started playing music, it was basically impossible to hear.  I could do pretty well with lip reading and my CIs cutting out background sound before the music started.  Dave, however, was completely lost.  His hearing aids just completely shut down from the loud music, and he doesn’t lip read as well.  We stayed for an hour or two and then left to walk around the hotel.

There was so much to do and see, and we managed to hit just the right combination of socializing, information-gathering, and relaxation time.  Once we got home, Dave admitted he figured it would be something he’d have to endure (since he didn’t know any of the people I already knew online).  But he ended up having a really good time, and was really glad we went.  Of course, I knew this would be the case before we even left!  😉

We got the chance to visit with family too, because my aunt and uncle live only about a 15 minute drive from the hotel.  My mom happened to be visiting at the same time, so we got to spend the evening with my aunt, uncle, mom, cousin and her husband.  What timing!  Although they’ve been up here (especially my aunt, who comes up to see my mom usually once a year), I hadn’t been to see them since I was about 12 years old.

After we left Tennessee, we drove to Arkansas to visit with Dave’s brother and his family.  That was such a treat, because I’ve never been to their house (or to Arkansas at all, for that matter).  We had a great time catching up with everyone.

Another nice little benefit of our trip is that we found a great pet sitter, which makes future vacations easier to imagine.  With a dog, 5 cats and 2 guinea pigs, we never go anywhere that’s more than a day trip.  In the past we’d ask my mom to stop in and feed them and take Toby (our dog), but since she was also gone on vacation, we had to find a pet sitter.  The lady we found was perfect, and it gives us real peace of mind to know there’s someone we can depend on for the animals if we go on a trip now…without bothering my mom (whose allergies act up around all the cats).

The 2010 HLAA convention is closer to our neck of the woods, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.  We are definitely planning to be there!

I didn’t take very many pictures (shame on me!) but the few that we did take can be seen here: HLAA Convention

HLAA Convention in Nashville, June 18-21

The Hearing Loss Association of America is having its annual convention this month, June 18-21, in Nashville, Tennessee.  Dave and I are both HLAA members but we’ve never been to an HLAA convention.  We decided to splurge and attend this one…we really can’t afford it but we haven’t had a vacation since 2002.  This will serve as a mini-vacation plus be an information-gathering event, so we are just plunging ahead and we’ll deal with the financial aftermath later.  😛

Dave is usually not thrilled about convention-type settings since they are horrible as far as hearing and comprehending go.  However, we went to an ALDAcon convention in 1998 and had such a good time that it wasn’t too hard to convince him that we could actually enjoy this HLAA convention.  It makes such a major difference when the seminars are captioned, and pretty much everyone attending the convention either has a hearing loss as well or they know how to communicate with those that have a hearing loss.  Sign language, lip reading, note pads…people would do whatever they had to in order to communicate, and it was fantastic!

The 1998 ALDAcon was an unexpected gift from some friends we met through the SayWhatClub online.  They had paid for the package and couldn’t attend at the last minute.  It was being held in Chicago and we are local to the area, so our friend offered the package to us so it wouldn’t go to waste.  It was quite a gift and even 11 years later we are still thankful!

This convention will be a little different because most of the people we’ll be meeting are folks I’ve talked to online but that Dave doesn’t know.  When we attended ALDAcon, he actually knew more people than I did because he’d been a member of SayWhatClub longer than me.  So this time around, I’ll be the one introducing him to people!  I think he’s going to feel like he knows many people already because I share stories and information with him as I read blogs, etc. and he also interacted with some people over on Hearing Journey, the Advanced Bionics forum, after my surgery.  (He went online and posted about my surgery experience when I was wasn’t yet up to the task of getting online and composing a post.)

So!  We are pretty excited here – Nashville is about an 8 hour drive for us, and we are really looking forward to staying at the Gaylord Opryland Hotel.  My aunt and uncle live nearby so we’ll be driving over to visit them Saturday night.  (There’s a trip that evening to the Grand Old Opry that we aren’t participating in, so we figured Saturday would be a good night for visiting.)  Ironically, my mom is going to be in Nashville at the same time, staying with her sister (my aunt) so we’ll be visiting not only with my aunt and uncle, but my mom as well!

It’s going to be our first trip with just the two of us since our honeymoon in 2002.  We’ve planned other trips and something always happens to make them fall through, so I have my fingers and toes crossed for this trip!

I know Dave is hoping to get his hands on some gadgets in the Exhibit Hall…he would like to play around with the Blackberry Curve, for one.  I have a bunch of seminars I’d like to attend, we’re attending the HLAA 30th anniversary party on Friday night, and it’s just going to be a good time in general.  Not to mention the people…I am so looking forward to meeting people in person after talking online for the past year!

If you’re going to the convention, please leave a comment and let me know so that I can keep an eye out for you.  🙂

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