Monday, November 05, 2007

Perceptions

It's funny how you look at things when you don't have the whole story.

For instance, when I was younger, I'd look at seemingly able bodied people alighting from the car parked in the handicapped stall in front of a business and roll my eyes. That person didn't seem like they needed the space and my perception was that they were borrowing someone else's car and decided to take the parking perk along with it. In a case of cruel irony, at 29 years old, I developed a DVT and earned a 9 day hospital stay. The pain was horrible.

My doctor suggested that I get a handicapped tag. He warned me that there would be days where I would not want to walk the short walk from my car to work. "You should make it shorter." This was after he was incredulous that I wanted to return to work in retail.

Apparently, you just don't do that with a huge clot in your body that puts you on a year of nasty blood thinners. Seeing the other patients he had sitting in the waiting room, it was clear that I was damn lucky that I could work. Many of the others had strokes or pulmonary embolisms from a clot. Three clots later, I'm on my last strike. If it happens again, I go back on the blood thinners. Darn Factor V Leiden is a ticking time bomb in my body.

As a young person with a handicapped tag, I got yelled at several times. One notable time was when I'd just left the podiatist's office after minor surgery. I couldn't get my shoe on my foot, and there was blood on the dressing (my advice: don't have surgery when you're taking Coumadin). Some guy driving his mother in a Caddy started screaming at me.

I looked at him, pointed to my bleeding foot and said "It's not what you can see that earned me that tag, but today you can" He drove off, steamed. My make everyone happy nature then resulted in hardly using the handicapped stalls. When the topic came up in conversations with people who knew me, the reassurances were plentiful that I should use the tag. I wasn't strong enough to stand up for myself against those perceiving me to be 'working the system'.

There are new visitors, new readers, people who don't know the back history of my health. The reader's digest condensed version is that I appear to be a freak of nature. If it's weird and happens to less than 2% of the population, then it happens to me. Wanna see the four page, carefully typed medical history I bring to each new doctor?

I'm currently out of work on disability for venous stasis ulcers. If you're squeamish, DON'T Google it. There are several other contributing issues, but suffice to say, at 41, I will never be able to run a marathon. I live in fear of that next clot, because with Factor V, there WILL be another clot. Can you feel the excitement bubbling up in those words? I knew you could.

Today the words that come forth are so serious, and yet, there's a reason to celebrate. I should be happy and cheerful. It has taken almost eleven months to get to this announcement:
THE WOUND HAS CLOSED!!!!!!! The ulcers are history.

The perception would be that all is well, right? Perhaps it is not. The nature of my job is that I stand for forty hours a week. I will see Nurse M today, and she will celebrate the happy news. I'm thinking I need to bring her and Nurse D some flowers today, as it is their care that got me here.

In talking to Nurse M briefly on Friday, she expressed a passing thought that if I return to work now, I probably would wind up back in the office to treat a new batch of ulcers. This perception is based on her seeing me push myself to work when clearly, I should have been out on disability months ago.


If you were wondering, yes, I've got a handicapped hang tag in my car. Some days, I get out and I see the stares, the eye rolls and refuse to consider parking elsewhere. Just because you don't see it, doesn't mean it is not there.

If someone does come to harass me about being there because I don't 'look' like I need it, they just might get a recitation of what it is that got me here. I'm not going to let someone else's perception of how healthy I look cause me to do something that will bring me pain. It took a long time to accept that and realize that perception and reality don't always match.

Later, look for an update after I go to the "NEW" office. I'm wondering how long the message informing me of my appointments will have this long message before telling me what time I'm supposed to be there.

Should I post a picture of the ankle? It won't get me any modeling gigs, but it's a lot prettier than it was last December.

UPDATE: I have been released from care, a 'healed' woman. Well, for this issue, anyway. Work is overjoyed that I will be back in their midst next Monday. So much so, that I've got a management meeting in the morning, and a store meeting on Sunday. My boss was ECSTATIC that I'll be back in time to teach a class the end of the month. (training and teaching are my forte. As a result, the classes are mine to lead)

As for the visit, M and I discussed at length what to do if/when this happens again. Until that valve is replaced, there are no guarantees that it will not happen again. We talked about SSDI and going back to school Now that I am headed back to work, won't they laugh me out the door? M seems to think that if I am upfront that my health will decline if I stay on my feet all day, that I look to SSDI to allow me to go back to school, it may just compel them to approve me I'd like to think the government is altruistic on that front, but life has taught me otherwise.

Am I happy? Yes. Am I sad? Oh yes, more than I am happy right now. I did far less with the leave time than I expected to, but I think that was the whole point of being on disability. The house is still a mess, there's a to do list that's still a mile long, but I feel good. Except for the exhaustion that comes from two nights of minimal sleep.

Once I'm back to work, in retail at Christmas time, the activity will revive me. After all, it is the most wonderful time of the year...

3 People talked back:

audrey said...

Hooray!!! I am a new reader, but that still sounds like wonderful news, so congratulations!

Thirty said...

I am so glad that journey is complete for you! You must be completely relieved.

I absolutely loved working in retail at Christmas. As stressful as it could be, the good far outweighed the bad.

Grandy said...

Interesting how we can become so affected by how others "might" perceive us, that it can determine our behavior for us. I'm just as bad.

I'm glad you got the placard, and am hoping you don't overdo it. You know I get this one. ;)