Category Archives: Surgery

Shingles! – More Painful Than Childbirth

My boss is kind enough to be one of my regular blog readers, so he took pity on me two weeks ago when I posted 10 Luxuries I Can Now Afford Since Once Upon a Time Got Picked Up for a Full Season and threw me another bone: four days of extra work on the TNT series Perception, starring Eric McCormick from Will & Grace, premiering summer 2012, but dubbing this week.

I could really use the cash and immediately started canceling some commitments, rearranging others and basically increasing my mega dose of caffeine. I had already written and was ready to post my next blog My Ex Husband is Getting Married Today for Friday 11-11-11. I threw on my cape, readied myself for a good night’s sleep sometime the next week, and started forging ahead. I’ve pulled this kind of task off many times before. But I was suddenly lambasted by a foe I had never before encountered.

Shingles.

I’ve had my share of pain in my life. I’ve broken my leg, cracked my coccyx, champed out stitches and suffered three experiences of childbirth ranging from all natural, to give me the epidural now!, to what the hell do you mean it’s too late for the f#%*ing epidural?

But nothing so far has prepared me for the sheer agony of shingles.

For those of you who may be unfamiliar with this ailment (myself included), it’s a painful rash caused by the same virus that causes chickenpox and is usually initiated by stress or a weakened immune system – which I guess is proof that I was unable to retain my Super-working-volunteer-mom status solely on a diet of Zipfizz and zero carb Monster energy drinks.

The Shingles started in my eye, and after being diagnosed with a migraine, a lacerated cornea and an ulcerated eyeball, the unbearable pain swirled through my eye and entire left side of my head, screaming for doctors to just murder me, because even though they wanted me to rate my pain level between 0 and 10, it had already zoomed past 12 on the agony Richter scale.

This cacophony of torment kept me incapacitated and hospitalized for a week and a half. I floated in and out of pain, sleep, and delusional pain meds for nearly a week, with an oozing eye covered in blisters and too swollen to see through. I resembled Sylvester Stallone in the first Rocky film when he begs his trainer to “Cut me, Mick!”

Still in a lot of pain, but definitely on the mend, it looks like I’ll be released from the hospital sometime tomorrow. I’ve got some vein bruising from my IV, so I can’t use my left hand. But my husband brought my laptop and reading glasses to the hospital today, so as I groggily hunt and peck the keyboard with one hand, I have composed:

10 Things I Learned From Having Shingles:
1. I am capable of lying in my own urine all night without realizing it. That’s how out-of-it I can be.

2. I can go 10 days without a bowel movement. My record was broken today after just five minutes experiencing my first-ever enema.

3. Hospital food isn’t that bad, particularly when you have no appetite. However, I realize that I actually like Jell-O.

4. I am eternally grateful for having good medical insurance. I don’t know yet what my out-of-pocket bills will ultimately be, but without insurance, that fear of living in an IKEA box could be a reality.

5. Without paying for Weight Watchers or Jenny Craig (both wonderful weight loss systems from what I hear) I managed to lose 8 lbs. in a week. This shingles weight loss method however is not recommended.

6. My lily-white mind-altering-chemical-free head makes me a very bad candidate for pain meds. I’ve never been into recreational drugs and haven’t had any alcohol in over 16 years (I seem to have more than made up for it with my insane caffeine intake), so Demerol, Dilaudid and Vicodin all gave me the dry heaves, and narcotics that helped the pain gave me weird and vividly real nightmares where cats and rats were chasing me, or that I was the star of my own Fellini film.

7. Commercials ultimately pay my salary, but I am oh so grateful to Dish TV for not forcing me to watch them. Because St. Joseph’s Hospital doesn’t have the luxury of Dish or TiVo, I was bombarded by not only the worst choices of daytime programming, but I was also forced to sit through the identical dozen or so lame commercials every 15 minutes. On the plus side, I was usually too incoherent to pay much attention.

8. I am officially burnt out on Law & Order SVU. I used to be a fan, but after finally getting some of my mind back, I was treated to an entire Sunday with SVU marathons on two different channels so I could switch back and forth whenever there was a commercial. I happened to catch a long stream of episodes where chest-beating outsiders came in for pissing contests with the regulars. And frankly, you can only see so many rapes in one day before you start feeling like Malcolm McDowell being sickened by ultra-violence in A Clockwork Orange. I finally turned it off for good with a bad case of the heebie jeebies and the uneasy feeling that no woman is ever completely safe.

9. No, the clock hasn’t stopped. It just feels that way because pain time moves so much slower than real time.

10. No one is indispensable – even me. I enjoy being a very VERY busy mom, and have a certain amount of narcissist pride that I can pull off anything if I set my mind to it. After my shingles experience, I know I can’t always do that. I missed my kids’ nighttime prayers and school activities, yet another one of my son Jake’s basketball practices, my daughter Mary Belle’s 11th birthday, and whatever teen angst my daughter Emily was going through this week. I dropped volunteer commitments that I take very seriously and social engagements with friends who may never be reunited again. I bailed on my husband, just as he was turning in the comps for his Ph.D., which was incredibly bad timing. My ego might tell me that I’m the best dang dialogue editor in the whole freakin’ universe, but when it came time for me to abruptly bail on not one but two shows, my boss found a couple of equally talented freakin’ great dialogue editors to step in at a moment’s notice to make sure they didn’t miss their dub date.

Yes, I can disappear for a week and a half (and I may still be out of commission for a few weeks) but the world keeps spinning on its axis. Others pitch in and save the day.

It will take me a long time to thank them all.

But I’m going to try.

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Filed under Anxiety, Career, Debt, Financial Insecurity, Friends, Humor, Husband, Multitasking, Parenting, Surgery, Teenagers, Volunteering

I Can See Clearly Now (as long as it’s further than two feet away)

This blog is reprinted from my Patch blog from August 9, 2011:  http://patch.com/B-nQf

I vividly remember the day: 3rd grade, when an optometrist came to my school and gave me my first eye exam. She covered my left eye and I read the first two or three lines of random letters and numbers. After that it was blurry. Then she covered my right eye and I uttered the words that would change my life forever:

“Wasn’t that first thing an E?”

It turns out my left eye was legally blind, and suddenly I was subjected to glasses as thick as hockey pucks. I also wore a flesh-colored patch over my good eye, trying to train the nearly blind one (AKA lazy eye) to see. The only result that little exercise succeeded in accomplishing was my being branded as a nerd for life.

Glasses corrected my right eye to nearly 20/20, but my left eye was just good enough that I wouldn’t bump into large obstacles. As the years passed, both my eyes worsened. Uncorrected, I had a sweet spot of about four inches in front of my face in which I could focus clearly. Beyond that, it was like looking through the bottom of a murky pool.

Flash forward to four decades later. Last January, after wearing glasses for five years and painful gas permeable contact lenses for another 35 years (the more comfortable soft lenses weren’t strong enough to correct my stigmatism) I applied for a zero interest Credit Care card and like millions of other four-eyes, I got LASIK.

What everyone failed to tell me was how scary it was. My eyes were pried open with mini forceps while a laser sliced a flap out of my eye. I was trapped like Malcolm McDowell in A Clockwork Orange, but instead of watching the freak show, I was the freak show.

They also didn’t tell me about the smell of burning when the laser actually vaporizes the eye tissue. And as much common sense as I thought I actually possessed, it didn’t really hit me that as soon as they’re done monkeying around with one eye, they move on to the next one.

With the help of the same little pill that probably knocked out Snow White and Sleeping Beauty, I slept all afternoon and all night, and woke up the next morning… unable to see. Distance wasn’t so bad, but my face in the mirror reminded me of the Twilight Zone episode “Eye of the Beholder” when the audience realizes it’s not the plastic surgery patient, but everyone else who is deformed (check it out – the reveal is at 2:51). I couldn’t recognize my own children from across a room, and I got into many embarrassing situations confusing one person for another (especially bad when you mistake a man for a woman or vice versa).

Unfortunately, I was one of those really bad cases that had to go for a second round of LASIK. I’ve now spent the past seven months wearing one pair of glasses to read, another pair to see the computer, and distance vision that has been in the general category of “not bad.”

Last Wednesday I went back to get my eyes re-grinded. Easy peasy. Apparently my doctor just needed to lift the flap that had been created in January and give my eyes a remodel. Unfortunately, recuperation turned out to be more painful than the last one. I woke up after a couple of hours and cried in agony. Not childbirth agony, but enough pain that I couldn’t champ it out without tears.

The waterworks returned the next morning when the slightest bit of light made me feel like a pill bug being burned alive by a boy with a magnifying glass. Every shade in my house was drawn, every light dimmed, and I had visions of the rest of my life as a shut-in, waiting for food deliveries and befriending Jehovah’s Witnesses who wandered on my front porch.

It’s now been nearly a week since my surgery, and I can finally see clearly. I’m still a bit sensitive to light, and I can see my computer best when it’s about three feet away. I’m over 40, so I already knew that reading glasses would be here to stay whether or not I had LASIK. But I can actually wake up and see what time it is without putting on glasses. And for the first time in my life, I have a genuine card that says I am able to drive without corrective lenses.

I know that big thing at the top of the reading chart is an E. But it’s such a pleasure to now recognize rows of random letters and numbers below that big E. And the only Patch I use today is the one this blog is on.

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