Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Thinking of different ways to treat a headache

Good headache medicine, with Katie and Nell
Due to the lingering headache after the car accident, on Thursday at my checkup Dr. Alyea said I should get a CT scan in case there was a little bleeding on my brain. He said it would not be the biggest deal if it was because then a neurologist could just put a needle in my skull and fix the problem.

It sounded like a big deal to me, but luckily the next day the CT scan showed I did not have bleeding on the brain. It's a good thing I didn't need to get a needle in my skull because first of all it did not sound like fun and secondly, I have enough of needles. The day before at the light therapy, I thought my nurse had gotten the needle in my troublesome left arm on the first try, but it was too good to be true and she had to do it again. All these days later I have a big black and blue mark. It's not a pretty picture but since I like purple I thought I'd take a photo.

At least before the light therapy, when I had my blood drawn for my checkup, I asked for and got Tina the nurse who used to be my BFF in the Kraft Family Blood Donor Center and who moved over to the blood draw on the second floor. She knew what kind of needle I needed in the right arm, for the return, in the photopheresis (light therapy for my graft vs. host disease)  that I was going to get after my appointment. So she put it in and left it in and said to tell them to remember to take it out because if I went home with it she would lose her job.

So, in case this is confusing, the timeline was, 2 p.m. blood draw, then appointment with Dr. Alyea, then the light therapy at 4.

At my appointment, Dr. Alyea said I could possibly cut down on the Valtrex. I said the last time I did that I broke out all around my lips. He said to get two shingles shots first (yay, more needles) and then try to cut back. I can get the shots at my pharmacy.

I have had to take more ibuprofen for the headache than I care to take. Ibuprofen: bad for kidneys, Tylenol: bad for liver; oxycodone, well, you know. I have settled on a low dose of the ibuprofen, maybe one tablet when needed. The Saturday before, I woke up with a headache and took a pill because I didn't want to have a headache for going to the UMass basketball game with Ben, Nell and Katie to hear Joe announce.

I love to listen to Joe announce. I loved watching my baby watch the game with his baby. I love hanging out with Katie. Love, love, love. As writers we try not to be repetitive, but I think it's OK if you're repeating the word love.

I didn't get to see the whole game because Nell was afraid of the Minuteman so we went out into the corridor and I bought her a little basketball and a big finger. She waved the finger at people passing by and said "Go UMass!" We played a little game to see how many people would answer. A lot echoed her. At that point my mind wasn't on headaches or needles.

Monday, November 11, 2019

Redo of Boston trip, this time without mishaps

It's probably not cool to write that I was in a car accident and then disappear, so, I thought I would check in and report that I made it to Dana-Farber on the second try, a week after I was on my way there and ended up in the ER. I still have an on-and-off headache but not as bad as it was.

I was nervous. It was rainy and windy, just like the week before. The driver was an old hippie (nothing wrong with that) who had Dark Side of the Moon on the radio. Nothing wrong with listening to an album whose "heavy lyrical musings on the human condition inspired countless bong-fueled headphone listening sessions in darkened bedrooms." It carried me back to college and my "junior year abroad" at Wesleyan University. I remember a particular scene with the songs playing in the background. Days of innocence and all that. In the car in the rain with a headache it kind of creeped me out.

If you have  to go to the hospital for a procedure, going to the Kraft Family Blood Donor Center is a good place to do it. My ECP session (the light therapy on my blood) started out on a good note. I must have been well hydrated because the needle in each arm went in on the first try. Interesting what gives me pleasure! They are all so friendly, and they all hate Donald Trump. They have are funny and kind and are good at fluffing pillows. From one of them I learned something new. He has a spiritual advisor. My nurse for the day said another nurse had shown her a video. I thought maybe she was making it up. But sure enough on my way out, the other nurse showed me the video of Paula White offering a prayer condemning the president's opponents, "accusing them of being aligned with evil spirits and using sorcery."

School photos!
The nurses have become an extended family.

When I showed one of them the school photos of the kids (the grandchildren, who, back in 2008, I thought I would never see), her mouth dropped open. I thought something was wrong. But it wasn't. She said she was thinking how much Nell looked like a photo of me, as a child, that I had showed them a while back. I don't see it, but some say that Katie looks like me, and I don't see that either. In any case I like showing them off.

The drive home started off on a strange note that was different from the strange one on which the trip had begun at 2 p.m. that day. Usually the drivers live in Western Mass, and the one who drives me sticks around. For some reason I had a Boston-based company. The old hippie driver had complained that he had been driving since 4 a.m. and he had no idea why they sent him out to get me. A different driver was going to bring me home. I said I hoped they wouldn't forget me. They didn't forget me, but I had another who lived in Boston, and he didn't seem to know the route back. I wasn't paying attention when we headed back around 6:30 p.m. Then I noticed that he was on Route 20. I asked why he wasn't using the turnpike, and he said it was because his Waze had told him to go that way. I said there were a lot of lights on this road and he should take The Pike.

"I can't help it that there are a lot of lights," he said.

I asked what his app said our ETA was. Mine said 8:30. His was around 9:15.

He agreed to find the turnpike entrance.

Wednesday, November 6, 2019

Car accident leads to week-long headache

I was in the back seat of the first car
I haven't complained lately about the drivers to Dana-Farber, because actually they've been fine. I have to complain about my ride, however, last week, when another driver on the rainy and windy day, swerving to avoid a car that had hydroplaned, hit the car I was in instead. I was amused by the idea of getting my blood sucked out on Halloween but it wasn't to be.

We were on the ramp at Exit 14 – almost there – so at least we were not going fast. (Most everyone goes further to avoid Route 9 but this driver, Michael, says they are the same.) In any case I was sitting in the back, on the passenger's side (that was another stroke of good luck) and minding my own business eating an apple when I felt an impact from the left side of the car, and my head banged against the window. The car got pushed off onto the side of the road. I got out, as did the girls in both cars. I called 911. Michael called his dispatcher, angrily talking up a blue streak in Russian. (I hope the hit on the head hasn't made me spew out cliches because I realized I just used two of them.) I wish I knew what he was saying. The one behind us said she had just called her mother. I thought maybe she should have called 911 but I did it. She said it was her first accident. I told her nobody died and just breathe. I remember being in an accident and it being my fault and being screamed at and it not being helpful, years ago. You don't cause an accident on purpose so I wasn't really angry but I'm pretty sure I was in shock. 

A paramedic arrived and asked me if I knew my name and then asked if I needed an ambulance. He said he had to get out of there as quickly as possible because it wasn't his jurisdiction. (Sorry for the inconvenience!) The police officer who came said the paramedic could leave. He got everyone's information and said everyone should get off the road. 

Nice setting for rainy day run
I called the Kraft Family Blood Donor Center, where I was scheduled to receive ECP, the light therapy on my blood, and Ellen, the PA, said they couldn't possibly do it because they use a blood  thinner, heparin. Michael said he would take me to the Brigham and Women's emergency room. He got all discombobulated and said he didn't know where it was. I said I could get it on my phone. Then he said he knew where it was, but instead he took me to the Beth Israel Deaconess Hospital ER. Then he turned around and headed towards the Brigham when I said that wasn't it. I could see it on the left but we were stuck in traffic so I said I would just get out and walk the block. (Probably not a good idea.) At check-in, the guard had me stand on line. (Still a New Yorker.) I said I thought I was in a little bit of shock and had been in a car accident and maybe someone could take my information. The next person saw me and got me into triage. My blood pressure was 200 over 83 or 84. I started crying. The nurse took me to a bed in a line of beds in a corridor.

A couple of doctors checked me out and didn't see the need for CAT scans or anything invasive. A doctor gave me some Ativan and two Tylenols and an ibuprofen and said to check in with my primary. The docs said I would need to wait a week to go back for the procedure. I was out of there on time for the frazzled Michael to pick me up. His car was damaged on the drivers' side but it was drivable. I'm lucky that I wasn't sitting behind him because then the impact would have been worse.

Healthy car lunch
I've had a headache on and off all week. My efforts to write have not been fruitful; I get a headache when looking at the screen. I did have to do interviews for the story I'm writing for Chicago Health Magazine, on Parkinson's Disease. There is no real evidence to support a causality between head injuries and Parkinson's, although there is some speculation, but that didn't stop me from going partway over the cliff. Back at the newspaper, we un-woke-ily said we had the disease of the week when we wrote about various horrible things that happened to people. So...here comes another cliche, it is par for the course for me to think I'm going to get Parkinson's. I have had worse head injuries though and so far so good.

I called my internist's office on Monday. I used to see Dr. Berger, now retired, who showed up on the tennis court at the Enfield Tennis Club's Friday mixer last week. He is the doctor who diagnosed me with leukemia. It was definitely interesting to see him the tennis court. I didn't end up playing with him or against him but I might some time. In any case I talked to the secretary for the doctor who replaced him and told her I was considering going to my chiropractor. She said she didn't know about the ER visit and said it was a good idea to go to the chiropractor. Then I got a call from another woman, at the same office, (first Lisa, then Meg) who said she knew of the ER visit and wanted to know if they could help me. Insert eye roll. 

On Monday, Keith McCormick, my chiropractor, did some tests and adjusted my neck. My blood pressure was still high but not crazy like it was. He said the high BP made sense since I've been in pain. He said I probably had a slight concussion and a case of whiplash. I have called the internist's office and left a message for Meg, to see if they want to see me. As it stands, I was scheduled for acupuncture today so I went ahead and did it. I'm going back to see Keith on Friday and going to ECP tomorrow.

I got two calls from Pilgrim Insurance Company, representing the driver of the car I was in. First Greg, then Joanne. I talked to Joanne. She wanted to know what happened. I asked what she knew. She said she didn't know I had gone to the ER and she wanted to know how I got there. PEOPLE. Wasn't there a report? Just talking to her increased my headache, which I thought acupuncture had ameliorated this morning. I told her that my chiropractor said I had a concussion. She said, "JUST a chiropractor? They have different training." I sensed she was getting at something, like, maybe the exam didn't count. I said I have also checked in with my primary. She asked about loss of work. I said I'm a freelance writer who needs to look at a screen and it has been hard to work. She gave me the claim number and said to send the company all my bills.

Today I have a dental checkup. I love Dr. Debian, of Holyoke Dental Associates, and I'll be interested in hearing what he has to say. 

The car accident day had started out well. I figured I should do a little running in preparation for The Hot Chocolate Run. I went 3.5 miles in the drizzle and got a taste of the good feeling of running in the rain. The leaves made a carpet. I was pleased that I had done it and that I hadn't tripped. I made a healthy lunch and sent a photo of it to my friends. I said I had forgotten to put in a fork but was making do. Then I texted that on a more serious note I had been in an accident.

Silver lining: At least the pain in my head has distracted me from my neuropathy.