Caving In

Ever get diagnosed with something you think is unusual, only to find that you're surrounded by others with the same issue? It's happened to me several times. Vertigo and Plantar Faciitis seem to happen to a lot of people and they suffer in silence.

Recently, a coworker at our sister store came into my store with a splint on her hand. I asked J what had happened and she described some all to familiar issues. She had just been diagnosed with deQuervain's Disease. That one isn't all that common, but I was able to tell her what the normal protocols are and that her doctor seemed to be following them. His opinion was that she would probably need the surgery, since the cortisone shots weren't helping and she'd already been through the splint and anti inflammatories. That surgery is what earned me the 2% Girl moniker, since only 2% of deQuervain's sufferers have to have it. Now I know another 2%-er.

I hadn't seen her in a few weeks. She stopped by my store the other day to show me her wrist. She had the surgery. Apparently, her doctor told her some of the things to expect with post op, but she had some worries about things he hadn't told her. J figured she'd pop in and see me to find out if the numbness she was experiencing was normal. It was (but didn't happen for me). I was also able to give her the lowdown on how long the post op pain typically lasts, that the range of motion *does* come back and that she needs to get some shea butter on the incision as soon as it closes up.

That first hand information is a beautiful thing when what you are going through is nerve wracking. The doctors and nurses can give you anecdotal information but they haven't usually lived through what you are as a patient. If you're new to a doctor, there is that learning curve to deal with. That's what J is experiencing now.

For me, there's precious little info about the Unna Boot out there. I'm going on the info that Dr. J and Nurse M have given me. Or I have. One of my coworker's grandmother is also a patient of Dr. J. Her Grandma has also experienced the joy of the Unna Boot and since she's the one who takes Grandma to Dr J and Nurse M, she's got some information for me.

I should have known that some of my experiences with it are out of the ordinary. The first time I had one (in July of '05), Dr. J had asked if I needed a 'return to work' note when I had it removed. (That first one? Allergic reaction to it-we thought it was the hibbaclens, now I know it was the hydrocortisone cream). I said I'd been working. He let that go without comment. I went through those two applications of the boot without any medication.

The blog has been good for chronicling life with the boot, like the pain that happens the first day, the sensations, the sleep deprivation and the lethargy that takes over when I've got a boot. I just don't want to do squat when there's one on me. The several times where I cut the thing off, only to find seriously puckered skin or worse, a severe allergic reaction that made my leg balloon up, covered in hives. I thought this was typical. I also thought that it was common to work with the thing.

The sign that I'm treading down a different path came when Nurse M returned my call about getting a Vicodin refill Tuesday morning. When the boot was applied Monday morning, we talked about how the first day of the thing is torture. I said I was going home and taking a Vicodin, my first since early November.
My observation about the Unna Boot is that the flexion of the ankle just causes the wrap to rub against the tender skin and further inflame what is already irritated. Once I settle down that first night, the wrap can 'set', for lack of a better term. Not that I want to go out and party and be active after that first day, it just becomes a degree more tolerable.

Tuesday morning, she called to tell me my refill would be waiting for me at my pharmacy. My voice mail was that I had one pill left and I wouldn't use it until I'd heard from her because I definitely would need it to sleep. When she called, she expressed her wonderful bedside manner yet again-this woman is fantastic. She told me to take what I needed to get me through and that she understood that if I was asking, I needed it.

Later, in showing my coworkers the new fashion statement, the one whose grandmother also sees Nurse M and Dr. J tells me that her grandmother is ordered on bed rest with the darn thing. Nurse M tells her to move as little as she possibly can.

This makes the 'return to work' question crystal clear. Nurse M had told me on Monday that quite a few of the patients ask for work excuses as soon as they're getting the boot. Now that I'm hearing someone else's first hand (or second hand) account, it appears that the extreme discomfort and pain I'm going through is typical. What is not is that I try to maintain the status quo.

A couple of years ago, those Unna Boots without meds were tough to deal with. I used Aleve to get through and was pretty miserable, but it wasn't as bad as now. There were no open wounds then, just some flaky skin that seemed nasty then. My how times have changed, I'd love to just that trifling issue now.

After a almost a year of the Vicodin to take the edge off all the pain, especially with the Unna Boot applications, I thought I could handle this go round without painkillers. I thought the leg had improved, that I had regained a lot more strength. I have an extremely high threshold to pain, a point that Nurse M has affirmed on numerous occasions.

For those reasons, I thought this Vicodin refill would just be to help me sleep. I even said to Nurse M that I'd been asked if I could just get a scrip for a sleep aid. She pooh poohed that, saying I needed to manage the pain effectively and the only way to do that and function was to take the Vicodin.

Upon reflection, I should have recognized what she was saying-take the damn Vicodin. Instead, I did what I usually do-tried to live without it. Big. Ass. Mistake. I have become more and more lethargic and I see myself becoming bitchier as the week goes on. I'm thanking God that I am pretty much off until Tuesday morning, because I don't want to drag my ass to work.

I'm doing what I know how, and didn't have that input from others walking a mile in my shoes (or boot, in this case). Let's be honest-it's not a common issue, especially if I'm in the first ten hits on google when people search "unna boot". In a sense, I am flying blind. I'm thinking that the pain is something to just work through. Now I'm finding out that no, most people DON'T work through it, that they take those painkillers while they're off from work. Meanwhile, I was trying to do the opposite.

Yes, I am crazy. No, I'm not stupid anymore-I took the first Vicodin from that refill a half hour ago.


klasieprof said…
I don't know about the Boot, I know about Vicodin. Car wreck in '98 had my right leg/foot rebuilt. Can't live without it.
I tried, the only thing that has helped, and don't think I'm weird, was in the fall I started this meditation thing. I've been able to cut WWWWWAYYYY back, and actually feel more myself.

Pain Just SUCKS.

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