Adventures as a Recent College Grad Living with Chronic Illness and Training a Service Dog

Friday, July 25, 2014

One Week, One Month, and One Year

One Week

Well, it's been one week since I've been in a hospital. Unfortunately that seems like a record. I am still really struggling with very low potassium levels. I started with a new primary care physician today who was very optimistic about working with insurance to pay for it IV, but was also very helpful and referred me to go to a super autonomic specialist in Dallas. Time frame to get in to see him? Who knows... but at least it's a start!

One Month

I've lived in Texas for a month! What I've learned so far:

1. It goes without saying that it's hot here. However, the level of humidity is just unreal. After living in Knoxville and Northern Virginia and those very hot weekends of horse showing at Culpeper, I thought I knew heat and humidity. Turns out I was dead wrong. It's pretty much opening the door and being wrapped in a wet blanket each morning. Also, people keep repeating how mild this summer has been so far- as if I didn't already dread August...

2. Texas DMV must hand out handicap parking placards like candy at a pediatrician's office. Seriously! It isn't that the spaces are few and far between- they are ALL just always full. Extremely aggravating when you need a van accessibe spot...

3. Nacogdoches Medical Center >>> Nacogdoches Memorial Hospital. and that's all I have to say about that.

4. People are genuinely friendly. This is something I had missed after moving to Northern Virginia. People smile and say hello to each other in the grocery store. For the majority, people have manners and yes sir, yes ma'am, no sir, no ma'am is back to being a part of my vocabulary because it is of nearly all of the students who go here.

5. I 100% made the right choice coming to SFA. My co-workers are the some of the best and most caring people that I have ever met. In the office, outside of the office- they are all great people and I feel so lucky to be able to be here to learn from all of them.

One Year

It's been one year in a wheelchair. 365+ days. I truly thought that this was going to be a relapse like I'd had in the past and I'd be back walking by last Christmas. Then it was Spring Break. Then it was Graduation. While my health has been crappy lately, over the past year it has been relatively stable. The number of concussions has decreased due to being sitting and closer to the ground. I've been able to get out and be more social since I haven't had to worry about how far it was going to be to the next place to sit down. That's about it for the positives. Otherwise, I absolutely despise it. Accessible housing, having to trade my Rav4 for a Mazda5, trying to find housing, van accessible handicap parking, and just general inaccessibility of the world we live in. 

Here's to the hope of there not being a two year anniversary.

Oh and MAX!!!

Poor guy cut his paw on broken glass on a sidewalk this week :( He has been very sad being on limited duty and has been moping a lot in his crate. He despises the bandage that he was having to wear, but good news! When I took it off this evening, it looked much better and he even played around in the living room and it stayed closed. Fingers crossed he can come back to work on Monday!

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Church with a side of Hospital, Please

That is my initial impression of Nacogdoches Memorial Hospital...

I'm not a religious person. I have the greatest respect for religious institutions and all people who choose to practice their desired beliefs, whatever those may be. Where my respect ends is when someone feels the need to impose those beliefs on me, and further insisting on trying to "fix" my lack of religious beliefs.

This past Wednesday, the seemingly inevitible happened- I fainted at work. Since I'd already had an abbreviated conversation regarding my health with my immediate co-workers, it was hopefully not quite as traumatic for them. I came to after about 3 minutes, tried to sit up with the help of 2 athletic trainers (perks of working in an athletic department!), and then fainted again. 911 was called, EMTs arrived, and off I went to the hospital since my blood pressure was being slow to rise back up.

Initial thoughts on the ER were decent- they drew blood off my port instead of sticking me (yay!), ran an EKG, and all the normal routine. Then the doctor came in. He asked me if this had happened before, I of course explain yes and that I have Autoimmune Autonomic Ganglionopathy. He had never heard of it before, and couldn't even repeat it back and instead of looking it up, said to the nurse that I had Superventricular Tachycardia and Hypotension. Um... no. Yes, I might have had a moment of SVT and of course I had hypotension (low blood pressure)- I had just fainted! If only my health was that simple, I would have said so.

He then asked about all of my meds, and then asked if I would ever like to be off all of those medicines. I couldn't decide between stopping his line of thought with a rude and sarcastic comment or just being a nice agreeable patient in the moment. In the presence of co-workers, I decided to be agreeable- why yes, of course I'd love to not have any of this anymore. He then asked me if I believed in miracles- I didn't really give an answer. He then asked the million dollar question that I had seen coming from a mile away- Don't you believe in God?! 

Ding! Ding! Ding! We have a winner! I'll take how to lose my patient's respect for me in 2 seconds for the win! Good grief......

I answered politely and to the point, to which he responded- Do you mind if we talk further on this? Yes, yes I did. I would like just to get the results of my bloodwork, make sure there's nothing wrong, and then go home. To his great offense, he then proceeds to talk defensively about a book that he thinks that I should read and how I shouldn't find too 'offensive'. For the record- I wasn't offended by any of this; I was more just wanting to get off the subject and focus on the medical crisis I was currently having. Anywho- it's about a mind over matter and what you want can be reality if you just stay focused. He wrote down the title and author on a prescription pad and handed it to the athletic trainer that came with me. 

Are you freaking kidding me? Hey dum-dum! If wishing made it so, I would be out of this wheelchair, horseback riding, and able to find housing without having to jump through 17 hoops to make sure everything's accessible!

Ok, apologies on the mini-rant. The nurses were, for the majority, great, and I couldn't speak more highly of my co-workers. My boss and one of them, and an athletic trainer went to the ER with me, while another took Max to her place and took the best care of him for the night. I'm told this is a perk of a small school and that nearly every person knew the same night and was sending texts of well wishes. It definitely wasn't something I had expected coming from a larger university, but it was a very welcomed surprise and benefit. 

I've been in Nac for 3 weeks today, and I'm already feeling like a part of the little SFA community. This just helped to reaffirm that I definitely made the right choice.

Bonus- There are 2 hospitals in Nac with emergency rooms, I'll be trying the other should the need arise again.

Picture: I was unknowingly sent on the ambulance with an SFA blanket. We take school pride seriously here- even in the hospital! Lol :)

Thursday, July 3, 2014

A 24 Year Old Black Wolf

Yep, the title says it all. According to a few fine citizens of Nacogdoches, Texas- I am the owner of a 24 year old Black Wolf. If only you could hear the laughing and sarcasm that's accompanying these thoughts.

Let's start with 24. If you have seen my recent Facebook status, that starts to explain it.

My roommate's friend: "How old is he?! [Max] He's so big!!!" 
"Max is almost 4." 
"24? No wonder he's so big!"

Can we work out the fallacy in the logic of this.... (psst- Hi Ashley!) 
1. Dogs do NOT live to be 24. As much as we all really wish that they would be a part of our lives that long, it just isn't the case.
2. Dogs do NOT just keep on growing the longer they live. On what planet does Biology work like that? Max is big because he's a German Shepherd- it's genetics. If by some miracle a dog did live to be 24, they'd be roughly the same size they were when they became fully grown around 2 years old (depending on the breed).
3. Seriously?!?!?!!! 

So now that we've established that Max isn't 24 years old.... the next claim was that he's a Black Wolf. Admittedly, I do not know how I didn't laugh my ass off when I heard this.

It was about 2 weeks ago, my mom, dad, Max, and I were all at Walmart getting a few things for my apartment. Max was doing great with walking by people, ignoring food on the ground, and generally just doing his job. A little boy in a grocery cart then exclaimed as we passed by- "Mommy! Look! There's a wolf in the store!" If that wasn't enough, he then rather calmly and matter-of-factly stated, "See Mom, that is a wolf. It is a rare Black Wolf."

The giggles that consumed my mom and I were so very hard to keep concealed, but we did get a couple of aisles away before we lost it.

A friend asked me how on earth I deal with these situations- 
Just Keep Rolling ;)