Thursday, July 23, 2009

Waiting for perspective

Have you ever wondered what it's like to be a lab rat? Living in a glass cage surrounded by doctors, pharmacists, chemists, grad students, and some guy named Rob who doesn't actually have any medical credentials but is working on a film about a particular disease that the lab rat didn't have when he was captured from the wild, but that he is secretly hoping he might catch so that he can document it.

Throughout the lab rat's time in the glass cage, which is not particularly uncomfortable as far as rat living quarters go, but still is a glass cage none the less, he is moved from station to station, where he is subjected to a battery of different medical tests, some with needles that take blood or fluids out, others that inject blood and fluids back in. There are X-rays and scans of sorts, electric and non-electric probes, which even for a rat are somewhat humiliating. Hair is shaved, hair is grown back, hair is braided into sort of cute little dread-locks, which isn't so bad. After each test the lab rat is given some pain medication for the discomfort and returned to his glass cage to await the next test.

Perhaps the most frustrating part for the rat - aside from the constant staring at his own reflection - is the fact that although the doctors, pharmacist, chemist, and even Rob are constantly performing tests, the rat never gets the results of the tests. Or, he is given results of the tests, but the results of one test contradicts the results of another test and when that happens, you guessed it, they have to perform yet one more test to see which of the first two tests provides the correct test results.

All the while, the lab rat's medical bills are piling up because some of the tests are not covered by insurance, some are considered in-network, some are out of network, of course anything that Rob does is considered purely experimental. The lab rat's family has to sell all of the little rat family's possessions just to pay the bills, even though they are hoping that the government is going to reform health care, they aren't sure how that will affect lab rats, but that is another blog post entirely.

Over the past nine months, I have found myself in the position of the rat. There have been many waiting rooms along the way, which I'm sure will be their own posts, but today I just want to give you a brief overview and talk about the waiting room I found myself in this week.

About nine months ago I started experiencing severe abdominal pain. After five months of trips to various doctors, tests that I blushed to explain to my husband, and trying various doses of numerous medicines, my pain increased. Needless to say, this was not the desired outcome, so we scheduled a hysterectomy. It was a routine surgery. A little anesthesia, the doctor goes in, takes out my uterus, I stay in the hospital overnight, I'm out of commission two weeks, three at the most, and I'm as good as new.

Fast forward three and a half months later, where after a blood transfusion, an 11 cm hematomoa, several infections, and an ovarian cyst, my ovaries have fused together and are somehow stuck down in the scar tissue.

The result: My pain is worse than it was to start with. Many trips to the hospital, emergency rooms, doctors, pain clinics, and physical therapists have left me in a situation that seems more hopeless than the one I was in nine months ago.

It was in this waiting room that I found myself looking for a little perspective.

You might not believe it, but there are physical therapists who specialize specifically in women's issues. My PT works out of the Carter Rehab Center in Baylor All-Saint's in Fort Worth.

For those of you who have never been through physical therapy, the waiting room alone is enough to make even the more middle aged of us feel pretty young as most of the clients are, shall I say, old enough to fully take advantage of the senior citizen discount at IHOP. This particular facility also has a work-out area which would definitely be somewhere that I could feel like a rock-star running a 28 minute mile, which sadly is pretty good for me even before I got sick.

During my session I was working on some exercises that had me lying on my back with my knees bent in front of me. From that position I could see a gentleman walking toward me out of the corner of my eye. I could tell that he was using a walker and that he was moving at an extremely slow pace. Because I was on my back I couldn't see any details, but I could hear his therapist encouraging him to move his left foot and then his right. Move his left foot and then his right.

I did several sets of exercises over the next five minutes or so as the gentleman made his way toward me. It had probably taken five minutes for him to walk about ten feet. All along the way I heard the therapist encouraging him to move his left foot and then his right. I could see his shoes come into my line of sight - the bright white tennis shoes that old men wear with black socks and shorts during summer time. That thought made me smile.

As I completed another set of my exercises the gentlemen came fully into my site and immediately my perspective changed. He was 6'4 with a strong athletic build and was 35 -37 years old. The look on his face was determined. Frustrated

They passed the table where I was sitting and turned to begin the long journey back across the gym.

I thought about journey that I had been on and immediately I was thankful. Yes, I was in pain, but in a minute, I was going to stand up and walk out of that room.

I remember when I was in high school someone told me, "Before you complain because you have no shoes think about the man who has no feet." I was reminded of that quote yesterday.

I hope that as I spend time in my little cage, when I look in the glass, instead of always seeing myself reflected back, I will see the reflection of others who have gone before me, beside me, and who will go after me and it will help me keep my perspective.

Image by Rick Eh? via Flickr

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