Innovation and “The Bleeding Edge”

There’s a documentary that’s been added to the Netflix library that I think everyone should watch called “The Bleeding Edge.” Overall, the topic is supposed to be about medical devices. But talk about intersectionality! Unfortunately, I think that women are going to be drawn to this movie more than men – because we are experimented on and dismissed much more than men and the movie makes it much more evident.

Every once in a while, we get to see a little snippet of a CEO standing on a stage proclaiming the audience of marketers and/or health care professionals “innovators” or “disruptors.” I really struggle with these labels. I see them thrown around often. What do they mean, exactly?

Nothing has really changed drastically here in the U.S. with the delivery of healthcare. We are still beholden to insurance in the traditional sense, and pharmaceutical companies, hospitals and medical device companies drive pricing, which is all over the place; nothing is uniform. Right now, only those with expendable income can stray from the model. Delving a little deeper, not every state is set up for people who are at or slightly above poverty; instead, the state laws are designed to punish them for lack of income and lack of healthcare, while simultaneously penalizing them for not taking better care of their health.

“The Bleeding Edge” covers such medical implants as hip replacement systems and the Essure coils, which are discussed in detail. I can relate to this topic on a few levels. First, all ten of the shunts that I had implanted between July 2011 and May 2015 failed. I went to a hydrocephalus conference in 2016 and was able to attend a panel with all of the major device manufacturers, and got the mic for a question. I detailed issues with scar tissue growing into the programmable part of the shunt which made the dial get stuck wide open, causing excruciating pain (and if any of you reading this have had a leak, imagine the symptoms for a year where you feel like you are being beaten by a tire iron every time you raise your head). The manufacturers insisted this was “impossible.” I told them they couldn’t say that to my face, because I was living proof, and one of their reps was in the exam room with me to witness it.

Any time, and I mean any time a device company says something isn’t possible right out of the gate, you know something is up. As outlined in “The Bleeding Edge,” women who had Essure implanted were only reported on for the first 12 months – and even for those women, their answers were altered so the outcomes were positive. As far as my shunts go, I didn’t know before my first surgery that all shunts have a 40% failure rate within the first year. I still haven’t seen that published anywhere. I wouldn’t have known that if I hadn’t attended the bi-yearly hydrocephalus conference in 2016 and heard it from one researcher (and only one researcher).

My second connection is that I actually seriously considered the Essure implant. A friend had them implanted in her Fallopian tubes and seemed to suffer few side effects. I wanted to stop taking birth control pills but didn’t want other hormones, and thought maybe the coils would be a viable permanent solution. I actually developed tumors in my uterus and had to have a hysterectomy, otherwise I may have completed that process. I’m breathing a sigh of relief that I didn’t after seeing this film. I didn’t realize the scope and breadth of complications – but more importantly, now that I know I overproduce scar tissue internally because of MCAS, I could have been in terrible trouble (besides what is happening now). I don’t know what I would do if I had to deal with that in addition to the scar tissue I already have growing around my intestines.

Another alarming process pointed out in the film is that devices are grandfathered in simply because they are similar to other devices that have been created. It doesn’t matter if the previous devices were defective. It only matters that the devices existed.

There are many moments in the film that made my blood pressure go up immediately. For instance, some fat ass doctor watching protesters who received the Essure implants say that they made up their complications. He is misogyny personified. And when a rep whose identity is disguised tells a story about a doctor who admits that the rep’s product is superior but he doesn’t get enough financial incentives so he’s going to promote a competitor’s product, I’m tempted to throat punch someone. Or how about when the filmmakers point out the different companies the former heads of FDA went to work for after they were done in the public sector so they could help get the products passed through the FDA for bigger profits with no thought to safety or effectiveness?

What would true innovation or disruption be? Let’s disrupt misogyny. Let’s disrupt hiring from the public sector into the private sector and vice versa so we can eliminate cronyism and sole emphasis on huge profit margins and replace those with successful medical devices and prescriptions. Let’s build a truthful healthcare system and test products before they are put into our bodies. (Don’t say it can’t be done. Other countries already do it.) Let’s build a healthcare system that is not based on employment or lack of employment. Let’s call it something other than “innovation” and “disruption.”

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The Great Debate

When I was 14, I was visiting my dad’s house for the weekend and sleeping on the couch, which was the normal – I didn’t have a bedroom there. I’m a light sleeper. So it was a surprise that somehow between 12:30 a.m., when I fell asleep, and 7:00 a.m., when my stepmom answered a phone call from a stranger alerting her to the fact that her purse was scattered on the stranger’s front lawn, that the house had been robbed – and the burglar had somehow gotten past me. Three hunting rifles had been taken off of the wall along with a video camera and tripod, and of course, the purse.

The next night my dad took my place on the couch with his handgun in case anyone decided to come back. We used all of my babysitting cash to re-key the locks. But this story demonstrates many points: I grew up around guns (that were never locked up), the hunting rifles made it somewhere into the wide world to be used for who knows what, and that we are a violent society. The cops were surprised I was still alive and unharmed.

Not many years later, when my brother was five and a half, he was given his first gun for Christmas. His first few minutes alone with it and he shot out his bedroom light. I was never given a gun because I was a girl. Mind you, I never felt as if I missed out. But my dad and my brother perpetuated craving violence and guns. Even though I was the one who was on the couch, exposed, they were the ones who wanted to kill, kill, kill. At least, that’s what they projected.

My dad’s own father died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound. In fact, Dad was the one who found him. Included in the three rifles that were stolen was the one that Grandpa used to do the deed. It had a strange sort of sentimental value that I couldn’t relate to. Who would want to cradle that weapon, and use it over and over, knowing its history?

Fast forward a few decades to when I lived with violent men. One was the guy who grew up in Manhattan in a household whose own siblings stabbed each other. The last day I saw him was the last time I called the cops on him, when he was supposed to be gone at work while I moved my things out of the house we were renting. Instead he was hiding in one of the back rooms and came out when I set down some moving boxes and attacked me. I struggled to get back out to my car in my stocking feet and he was restraining me and pinning my arms, telling me that if I would just do what he told me to do, we would be happy. I finally wrestled free and got in my car and called 911. The responding police officers bought his big-eyed innocent act and told me that if I called them again that I would be arrested.

Then there was the live-in boyfriend who threatened to shoot me – twice. He also talked about taking his guns to work to shoot all of his co-workers constantly. The cops reassured me there was absolutely nothing I could do until he actually followed through and hurt one or all of us. 

Most recently of course was my downstairs neighbor who moved out the last weekend of July, 2017. He used to beat his wife and abuse their cat. Whenever I had visitors I was a nervous wreck, because I had no idea if he would pound down the door while they were here, falsely claiming that we were too loud, or take it out on me later, screaming and raging and dreaming up reasons to call the cops on me. Worse yet he could of course physically pulverize his wife and cat for revenge, just for existing. He was ex-military so I knew it was likely there was a gun or two or seven in his apartment.

So here we are in the U.S. with our easy access to the worst kinds of weapons and ammunition. I am the one who was laying on a couch while a stranger or two crept past me to rob our house; you would think I would fall into the category of wanting a gun for home protection. I grew up around them; you would think I would relax around them. I’ve lived with and around plenty of assholes who have wanted me dead; you would think that I would feel safer armed.

Fuck that.

First of all, we have over 7 billion people on the planet. We are no longer hunting strictly for food supply. Anyone who claims that is an outright liar. And hunting season is so abbreviated that there’s no need to keep guns out for the entire year to make them accessible to every man, woman and child on the planet. Second, home invasions do not happen with the regularity that the NRA has somehow convinced the gun lovers they do. I remember reading from one guy a quote last week that Texas experiences 800,000 home invasions a year. My answer was, “Are you talking about bugs?” I mean, c’mon. If that were true, Texas would be experiencing a mass exodus.

The biggest and hottest debate that has resurfaced is the arming of school staff. I cannot stress this enough, but there are so, SO many reasons why this is a bad idea. Right now I live in the city where Philando Castille was shot. He had a permit to carry a concealed weapon and told the cops, and was shot and killed anyway. If for some reason some idiots decided arming school staff members would be a good idea, the staff members had better be lily white, because we Americans cannot be trusted to be color blind. Even black cops have proven to have prejudice against black suspects without meaning to.

I posted this article on Facebook regarding an armed officer who never engaged in the shootout that was happening in Florida. He simply hung back while all of those kids were getting shot. I pointed out that if an officer did this, why would we expect teachers to uniformly charge without fear or hesitation, and to act correctly? A friend of 27 years, whom I considered a decently good friend, didn’t like that I used this as an example of why we shouldn’t arm teachers and staff. He also didn’t like that I proposed that we have stricter gun laws regarding background checks, wait times, amount of ammunition sold, amount of ammunition guns could fire, types of guns that could be sold on the market, and age of buyers/operators. He resorted to calling me an idiot. Finally, he just outright blocked me. 

But am I an idiot? I’ve just been trying to stay alive. I have all of this violence swirling around me, and all of these men are insisting that they have a right to violate me. I’m saying no. I will continue to say no. I’m good with saying no.

Lastly, here is a comprehensive list from a woman named Karen Nichols in Ottawa Center, Michigan; she had many questions regarding arming teachers and staff, and did a great job of articulating them:

Which teachers get guns?
Where will the guns be stored?
Who decides when guns can be brandished?
What penalties will apply if teachers mishandle a weapon?
Will teachers volunteer for gun duty?
Can teachers refuse it?
Who will audit their adherence to regulations?
Will students know which teachers have weapons?
Who will be liable if the teacher with the gun becomes the shooter?
What will be the consequences when students are accidentally shot by a teacher?
How will armed teachers communicate in a tactical situation?
Will teachers with a history of mental illness be allowed to use weapons?
Will teachers be required to disclose any history of mental illness?
Will teachers be issued a weapon? Reimbursed for purchase? For ammunition?
How will administrators conduct non-weapon-related discipline against a teacher?
Will there be armed assistance available to deter workplace shootings?
Who will shepherd the armed teacher’s classroom while the teacher is attempting to locate the active shooter?
What happens when a teacher misidentifies a student as a threat in good faith?
Will teachers who do not carry lethal weapons be offered non lethal alternatives?
If an armed teacher is shot, can another teacher employ his or her weapon?
How will armed teachers identify themselves to arriving first responders?
Will armed teachers be required to learn how to give first-response medicine?
Will armed teachers be required to attempt an arrest before using lethal force? Under what circumstances?
Will proficiency training on weapons count for teachers’ continuing education and professional development?
How will insurers adjust health and other rates to account for the presence of armed employees?
Will teachers receive additional pay for being armed?
how often will armed teachers be re-evaluated for licensing purposes?
Will armed teachers leading field trips deposit their weapons in a personally owned vehicle or school-owned transport?
Will one teacher per wing of a school building receive weapons? Two? Three?
Exactly which standards will count for proficiency—greater than a big-city police department, State Police, FBI, hobbyist, marksman?
In training scenarios, how will using force against innocents be penalized?
Will racial sensitivity courses be required?
Do parents have a right to refuse to send their kids to schools with guns?
Will students have to sign waivers? Will parents? What if a parent signs a waiver for a minor student who, when that student turns 18, refuses to abide by its provisions?
Will teachers on probation be allowed to carry weapons?
What about teachers with active union grievances? Complaints about sexual harassment? Anger management? Divorce proceedings?
Will armed teachers wear holsters?
Will they be stationed strategically during pep rallies or other gatherings?
Will they participate in lockdown drills as if they were armed or unarmed?
Will funding for the policies outlined above be distributed according to local budgets, statewide formulas, or national formulas?
Will schools in high-risk neighborhoods receive more or less funding? Suburban schools?
What is the right ratio of armed:unarmed teachers by grade level?
What is the procedure for debriefing and assessing armed teachers’ performance during a crisis?
Can an armed teacher who flinches be fired? Can an armed teacher who breaks protocol be rewarded?
Will preschool teachers have guns?
Will teachers in “juvie” (high risk) schools have guns?
Will the teacher or the school be liable if their gun is stolen?
Can administrators carry weapons? Can they do so in disciplinary situations?

Think about this: I quit playing clarinet after 8th grade because my band teacher was an outright asshole. After I quit, he was fired for punching a student. But let’s give him a gun, right?

Unhooked Generation – The Book

Originally published in my MySpace Blog, 2/10/2008.

Unhooked Generation by Jillian Straus

The woman that wrote the book was not a clinical psychologist; she was only a woman in her 30’s wondering why it seemed so much more difficult for people in our generation to find lasting love.  She traveled to different locations around the U.S. to interview random people that responded to her ads posted in free newspapers and Craigslist.  Some points really hit home for me.

1.  Do you make a list?  I know a man who has listed 42 qualities his future partner must have.  I even have a list myself, though it doesn’t go up to 42:  must pay his own bills and not try to steal my money; must bathe at least daily; must brush teeth 1+ times a day; must be nice to me.  Some standards are reasonable, I think, and some absolutely no one can live up to.  I don’t even think I can list 42 qualities about myself, so how do I know if I fit that manifest my friend created?  Oh, and once you have your grocery list made, then you can go shopping on eHarmony or Match or Plenty of Fish to make your selection.  Like a piece of meat.  What ends up happening is that we reject everything, which leads to….

2.  Why suffer?  If I don’t like something, or if it isn’t working for me, why not just cut it off and be done with it instead of beating myself up trying to make it work?  Relationships ARE work.  Or at least they require effort.  Expecting for things to just fall into place is unrealistic, and bailing is the easy way out.  I have absolutely been quick to jump ship but can honestly say that I’ve never regretted doing so.  I just don’t put up with any juvenile bullshit anymore.  Of course, the “why suffer” mentality is one of the main reasons that couples get divorced; think about it:  how many marriages do you know about that have lasted for less than a year?  I can think of 7 of my friends right at this moment.  Is it that they’re picking the wrong partners, or just giving up too easily?

3.   Fear of making the wrong choice:  let’s talk about the guy with the 42 requirements again.  He repeatedly says that he never wants to commit, because what if the next person that comes along is a better match for him?  He’ll never, ever be happy, I guarantee you that.

4.  Never allowing yourself to connect because you are afraid to fail at marriage.  Wow, this is a big one – I have always said that if I’m crazy enough to get married, it will be only once.  Half of the interviewees said they were afraid of failing by not living up to the seemingly seamless relationship their parents have, or failing by turning out just like their divorced parents.  I’m afraid of the second one myself.  No one goes into a relationship thinking that it’s going to fail, but it’s another thing to think that you’re not even going to allow someone to get close so there is no opportunity to fail.

5.  Losing our gender identities.  Yes, women’s lib was a blessing, I will bang the drum about that one all day long.  It’s what allows me to be a single woman in my 30’s [now 40’s] with a career and the ability to stand on my own.  But……..I could really use a mate who knows how to work on cars.  And by the way, can he also like going to art museums, and cry at mushy movies too?  But I don’t want him to open the freaking door for me, I have two arms and two legs and can manage on my own.  But can he still pay for dinner, because he’s the man?  I can say that I want a really strong, stoic man who can build a house but still tear up over “Love, Actually”, but how realistic is that?  It’s a bunch of mixed messages that lead to misunderstanding because one person gets pissed off that the other one didn’t pick up the check.  It is every man for himself, I tell ya – because there are no boundaries on the gender roles anymore.  Better brush up on your communication skills.

6.  Technology.  How easy is it to erase someone from your cell phone, and therefore your life?  How easy is it to send e-mails and instant messages, but never talk on the phone or see each other face to face?  We’re definitely disconnected and our spelling skills are becoming atrocious – because we are lazy.  And scared.

This is one of the few relationship/self-help books that I’ve read from cover to cover – usually I get bored pretty easily or can’t relate to what the message is.  This one is fascinating because I have so many single friends, just like me, wondering what in the hell is going on.  If you recognize any of these factors within yourself, this may be an interesting read for you too.
[Disclaimer: Since it’s now 10 years old, some references are going to be outdated, but the ideas are still relevant.]

 

Save The Date

Statistically, Minnesota is one of the worst or the worst state in the U.S. when it comes to wait times for disability processing. I didn’t know this when I relocated from Arizona to Minnesota to try to figure out what was going on with my body. This article from the Minneapolis Star Tribune states the average wait time is around 570 days from filing to have a judicial review. I just got confirmation that my hearing is set for March 28th, which will put me at about 770 days of filing the appeal (and almost 3 years to the day of filing the initial claim of disability). The back log just keeps getting worse.

I’m not sure I would have done this any other way. As horrible as it has been with trying to get doctors to take care of me in Minnesota, I did finally get three diagnoses that I have been missing for years in addition to what I already knew. I forget what my count was when I entered the state, but I’ve seen 64 doctors since July of 2010. This has not been an easy process. There is no clear path.

Thankfully my allergist has already agreed to fill out paperwork for my hearing, and my counselor has as well. I will be meeting with my primary care doctor and pain doctor next month to ask the same from them. I’ve been rejected by every neurologist and neurosurgeon in the area as well as banned in writing by the Mayo, and I can’t go out of state because I’m on Medicaid so it’s not allowed, so I’m not quite sure how that is going to be looked upon by the judge. There’s absolutely nothing I can do about that.

One incredible resource I wish I had stumbled upon before I started this process but am eternally grateful for is the blog How To Get On. There are sooooooooo many links/ideas/resources/testimonials that it sometimes boggles my mind, and I really can’t imagine how many man hours it took her to put it together. It’s unfortunate that the author sometimes gets reported and blocked by Facebook for either posting “too much” (seriously??) or for questionable posts (again – say what??), so we have to keep it circulating so as many people as possible benefit from its content.

Ladies First

I grew up in Minnesota, and I currently live in Minnesota, though there was a big break of 20 years where I lived and voted in other states. Still, one of the bright and shining lights in being in this horrible position of having to burn through all of my personal savings and deplete my entire 401k plan just to live until I find out my fate in a much-delayed disability hearing is that from my mayoral candidate to my state representative to my House and Senate candidates, everyone is a Democrat.

And the two Senators from Minnesota are very popular; Amy Klobuchar is a champion for women and often works across the aisle to find common ground so that bills don’t stall completely. The most recent bill (embarrassingly) is the one outlining what needs to be done in the case of sexual harassment – because nothing has been in place or updated for more than 50 years. Amy Klobuchar’s office is “following” my disability case, though for the time being, there is not much they can do to speed the process to the hearing because I’m technically not completely down to zero dollars (though I’m close) and I’m not close to death at the moment. Things have changed quite a bit since that concept of approaching your senators and representatives for help was introduced.

The other, Al Franken, often makes the news because of his relentless and sarcastic grilling during committee hearings. As recently as Wednesday night, after another video was posted on Twitter and Facebook, people were calling for him to run for president in 2020 because of his no-nonsense approach and seeming transparency in all areas professional and personal has made him the darling of many who tire of the current shitgibbon in office who picks fights with other world leaders via Twitter.

Of course, everything flipped on Thursday morning when it was revealed that Al forcefully kissed a woman after she refused him, then pretended to grope her while she was sleeping.

Al is actually a friend of friends, so I’m going to start there. I’m going to imagine knowing him for a few decades as someone who went to his house, or he came to mine, watched his kids grow up and he watched mine get bigger, and maybe we talked about how I finally got diagnosed with this really sucky disease that has no cure and not a great prognosis – because that is what happened to my friends. And it seems like he genuinely cares and wants everyone to have a better life.

My friends were hurt and disappointed. It’s difficult to wrap your head around having something like this hit the news and it touches every corner of your life. How do you explain it to children, who also see it on the news and hear adults talk about it? How do you bear the burden of close people being really disappointed, not to mention millions of strangers? How do you feel safe around someone who says that they respect boundaries and is a champion for women but then demonstrates the opposite?

Al even co-sponsored a sexual assault bill; it addresses how first responders are trained in handling rape victims and how to interview them. Abby Honold had to fight her rapist for two years in court in order to get a six-year sentence for her attacker. As soon as the story broke regarding Al’s behavior, Abby contacted his staff and requested that he immediately remove himself from the bill, and he agreed.

I tried to talk about this situation with a man who I generally see as supportive to women. When the report came out and was immediately confirmed and an apology was issued, I was extremely disappointed too. I admit I don’t personally know Al, but fuck, I’m a woman. I’m a woman who has worked with men. I’m a woman who has been out in public. I’m a woman who has been groped without permission. I’m a woman who has been kissed without permission. I’m a woman who has faked pleasure and orgasms in order to get away from someone as quickly as possible because I have recognized danger. The man that I tried to talk to about this knows this, because we have talked about it over and over.

But this time, he told me to shut up. He told me that the woman who reported it accepted Al’s apology, and that’s all that is needed, and my opinion doesn’t matter. Then he said he was sorry he got into the subject with me. Then he said he had bigger things to worry about. Then he went into these big, long speeches about how what Al did wasn’t as bad as what Roy Moore did, and it was before he was a senator, so he should just be left alone. This entire time he was spouting off, I didn’t say anything. There wasn’t anything I could have said that he would have been receptive to. He was in Lecturing Middle-Aged Privileged White Male mode. 

Why do I take it so personally? Just last week I had been talking about adding Al in on my disability case in trying to get it pushed through faster because my funds are running so low, but my instincts kept holding me back. I don’t know why. Now I’m afraid to ask my elected official to help me just because I have boobs and he might want to feel me up in return for helping me. Why does everything have to have a fucking cost? Why do I have to whore myself out? I truly don’t think that men understand just how much of a betrayal this is, when we confirm that yet another person has abused their power.

A man saw fit to tell me that my opinion didn’t matter, then he went on to tell me all about his – about men forcing themselves on women, and his conclusion was that it wasn’t that bad and it could have been worse. Another man posted his own conclusions, saying that as long as love and dating have been around, “unwanted feelings” have been a part of the whole thing, and we should just deal with it like adults. Here’s the thing, though: Al and his accuser never dated. Ever. And for part of it, she was asleep. I realize that every man has a “wake me up with a blowjob” fantasy, but when a woman is in full fatigue gear and wearing a flak jacket and helmet and is in a deep sleep sitting up on a plane surrounded by men, exhausted, she’s probably not fantasizing about how she can fulfill their high school porn dreams. The same can be said about my asshole ex-boyfriends who didn’t believe me when I would get pissed about them feeling me up in the grocery store when I was trying to take care of a long list and they were contributing absolutely nothing of value, including money and effort.

I really, truly wish that men would put their dicks down and listen.

Oh Ye Of Little Patience

Well-meaning people direct me to online support groups all of the time. Why don’t they work for me? Because I’m a snob.

A couple of days ago, I was summoned across the street to my sister’s place of business, because one of her co-workers knew an artist’s husband very recently had had brain surgery, and thought it might be beneficial for us to visit. As luck would have it, I had just finished showering and slapping on some makeup, so it wasn’t a big deal to finish getting my clothes and wig on to hobble across the street. When I walked in the door, I immediately recognized the woman. We had briefly visited during a previous show at the gallery. She and her husband were very pleased with the surgeon and her husband’s recovery, so I got the name of that doctor and another from her.

However, she looked over the top of her glasses at me and started with, Have you gone to a chiropractor? Yes, I explained, many times, and they did absolutely nothing for me. She wanted to know if I had gone to an herbalist. Yes, again, I sighed wearily, I had, and I’m taking supplements out the wazoo, because I need to, because my diet is very restricted. But they don’t make me better. My issue is mechanical and I need surgery. Then she wanted to know if I had tried the Chinese herbalists next door. I held up my hand and said that I’m very good at researching and am 1 to 7 years ahead of everyone else’s suggestions, so there’s no need to make suggestions. Then she moved to food. Was I juicingI really needed to juice everything! I said no. She started listing everything I should be eating, so I started cutting her off, telling her that each item caused a release of histamines, so it was actually dangerous for me. (Plus, with the few things I can still eat, why would I juice??? I get so little fiber now, and juicing removes most of the fiber.) Did I try an accupuncturistAgain, yes, and they did nothing for me. I know, I know, hard to believe.

God, I hate getting advice, especially when I don’t say, “Give me advice, I have no idea what to do or where to look.” She did write down the name of her otolaryngologist surgeon, whose specialty is cancer tumors of the head and neck. I’m still going to contact him. My tumor is not cancerous and he may not want to deal with it because it will probably grow back, but it’s worth asking him. However, I may be blacklisted because of my negative encounters with three other doctors within the same university system who said my problems were psychosomatic.

So, back to support groups: I hate them. I also can’t keep my mouth shut. One week, someone posted something about how she wished our rare disease doctor would team up with another doctor who researches the same disease. Unfortunately, the other doctor doesn’t have a license, so he can’t see other patients. I pointed this out. She said fine, then everyone needs to take care of themselves and stop smoking so they’re not on oxygen. That really pissed me off because the majority of us in the group can barely eat any foods safely because we’re always dealing with hives, have a really hard time finding medicines that don’t cause hives/asthma/anaphylaxis, and don’t smoke. I’m fucking allergic to smoke. I told her she was lecturing the wrong group. Other people got pissed off too. But then another person singled me out and told me to tone it down, and then it just went downhill from there. I was told that I should have just kept scrolling if I didn’t like what I saw. Then the original poster said she didn’t know that doctors needed licenses and not everyone knows that. I got so angry that I said that the leading doctor in this field most likely already considered the option of teaming up with other leaders, but they were in situations he was trying to get away from, so it was a moot point, and we should use common sense.

I admit it, I’m a snob. (For some reason, the woman who was trolling me told me that I was going off on a tangent because of that last remark. I told her that there was nothing that I was saying that was off topic, and I was responding to everything she and the OP were saying. I don’t think she understood what “tangent” meant.)

I’ve talked about this with my counselor. She agrees with me that a group setting isn’t what suits me best. I tend to steamroll people. Just today, someone in a group asked, “How many of you have NOT had _______?” and a bunch of people said “I didn’t,” but then a bunch of other people said, “Oh, I did, and it was like this and this and that.” So I wrote a message saying, “So, I thought this was about people who didn’t?” I got a reply that basically said that people wanted to share no matter what the question was.

Why don’t those fuckers write their own blogs if they’ve got so much to share?

Have a G’Day Every Day with Oska Pulse

People often ask me just what it is that I do with all of my time now that I’m stuck in bed. I love writing and I count myself lucky to have been included in the Chronic Illness Bloggers network, and given many opportunities to try products I wouldn’t otherwise have access to. I have been given this product as part of a product review through the Chronic Illness Bloggers network. Although the product was a gift, all opinions in this review remain my own and I was in no way influenced by the company.

First, let’s talk about pain. I’m an expert on it. I’ve been an old lady since about the age of 23, when I got my first diagnosis of fibromyalgia.

It hasn’t stopped there. Now that I’ve had 10 brain surgeries and have been bedridden for 7.5 years, I have some very specific challenges. Staying in bed triggers the fibromyalgia. But I have to lay flat because when I’m upright, fluid pools in my brain and presses on my midbrain and spinal cord and causes all kinds of balance, vision, and pressure issues, and puts me at risk for seizures and strokes.

For three years I had surgeries on the right side of my body and could only lay on my left side. That put tremendous strain on my left shoulder. Twice before I had to go through physical therapy to treat an impinged (“pinched”) nerve in the shoulder. For this last year, however, the pain was much, much worse – so bad, in fact, that I broke six teeth because I was clenching my jaw in pain. My doctors finally figured out that I had torn tendons and the actual capsule that houses the shoulder bones from all of the time I spent on that side of my body.

We tried everything: ice, heat, anti-inflammatory meds, low-grade opioids, muscle relaxants, meditation, stretching, a brace during waking hours, a brace during sleeping hours, multiple injections, light weights, joint manipulations…everything except sacrificing a chicken. For an entire year, I was in incredible pain. I couldn’t even close a cupboard door.

The surgical site side was changed to my left, so I started having to sleep only on my right. That gave my left shoulder a break, but then I started having problems in my right hip. I have to use a cane for walking because of my terrible vertigo and I walk with the cane in my right hand because I’m right-dominant, and I knew I was really going to be in trouble if both sides of my body were going to be rendered useless by pain.

Then I was contacted by Oska Wellness, Inc. to try the Oska Pulse.
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Where do I begin? First, it actually physically looks too good to be true. That was my first, honest thought. How could something so small and seemingly simple do what nothing else that doctors were trying to achieve for an entire year, throwing everything they had at me? I mean, come on – a little space ship? And we all know about those devices from those ads on TV that never amount to anything but you can get them for 3 easy payments of $29.99, and they sit in the back of your closet until you move or you divorce…

But the Oska Pulse isn’t that.
2016-11-21-13-16-08“Oska” – Australian for Oscar, the name of koala who was helped by this device after he was badly burned by a fire!

The Oska Pulse is a battery-operated, rechargeable device that gives off a pulsed, electromagnetic field to treat pain and edema. That’s the very simple explanation.

So the Oska Pulse turned into my chicken sacrifice, if you will. The note card that came with it suggested that for chronic pain, I should wear it 4-6 times at the site of pain for the first week. I immediately pushed the little round button that you see at the bottom of that picture above and placed it on my shoulder.

Now, the Oska Pulse comes with a stretchy sleeve with Velcro closure if you want to strap it on and have it stay in place. I tried that, but since I don’t get up and move around much, I quickly determined that I didn’t need to do that. You can see by the fuzz on the device that there is some grippy rubberized material on the Oska Pulse that is good for keeping it in place. All I had to do is prop the Oska Pulse on my shoulder, press the button, and let it do its thing for a half hour until it beeped at me three times to indicate it was done.

After the fourth day, I started to notice a difference in my shoulder. I could pick up items heavier than a magazine or an empty toilet paper roll. People, this is huge: I already automatically lost the use of one hand because it was always occupied by the cane I had to use to assist me with walking. I can’t stress how bad this was, especially since only yesterday I got the last of my teeth replaced from all of those that I had broken in pain. I started being able to reach all the way over my head, and I was able to increase both my repetitions and the weights of my physical therapy exercises.

So after I saw success in my shoulder, I started moving the Oska Pulse around my body. This little guy was getting a workout! But that’s okay! The Oska Pulse stays charged for about 15 sessions lasting 30 minutes, and then it needs another charge. The charger can be hooked up to a laptop or it can be plugged into the wall socket, as it has both capabilities. 2016-11-21-13-17-132016-11-30-17-18-36Here is the Oska Pulse in action, in the elasticized sleeve with the blue pulsing light on. You won’t feel a thing, truly. There is no buzzing, so the blue light will be the only way you know that it’s on. Are you shocked? You shouldn’t be! This is a device where taking away your pain will be completely painless. That is the best part about the Oska Pulse.

I didn’t tell my physical therapist about the Oska Pulse when I went in for a visit after not seeing him for a month. He was expecting to see as much improvement as he had seen the previous months, which was zero. Instead, he was stunned to see me lifting my hands over my head, bearing weight, and best of all, wearing an underwire bra that clasped in the back (previously the girls had been relegated to a sports bra that I could twist into with one hand that left them sadly sagging and flopping like I’m undeniably 43, which I am, and does nothing for me being able to attract potential suitors, even under false pretenses). My physical therapist was ready to doubt me or tell me to back down, stop being so enthusiastic, to slow my roll; but he nearly fell over with how well I was doing. He was stuttering.

This is a long post, but hang with me a little longer. I gave up my Oska Pulse, and potential pain relief for a time, because I wanted to know if it was just me. Was I just thrilled to get this product and was I blinded by the blue light?

I had given the team at Oska Wellness a heads-up that I might be doing this, but I gave the Oska Pulse to my sister for a test drive. I didn’t tell her much – only that she needed to charge it if it didn’t stay on for at least 30 minutes when she turned it on, and that she should wear it on spots that she was having pain. I gave her the instructions, the charger, the unit, and the stretchy band with the sleeve, and set her free. I did tell her that it worked for the COO’s dog when the dog was in pain because I knew that would tug on my sister’s heart strings – her dogs come with her to work every day, and we are all suckers for their love. If the Oska Pulse objectively worked for the dog, why couldn’t it work for us?

She made an effort to religiously wear it for two weeks, during which time we didn’t discuss the Oska Pulse at all. She didn’t tell me where she was placing it or how often she was using it. At the end of the two weeks I asked for it back and checked in with her. She had decided that she needed help with her neck. The easiest way for her to wear the Oska Pulse was to slip it into the flipped down hood of her hoodie – she didn’t even have to strap on the elastic band, and no one had to know she had the Oska Pulse going. She opted not to try to sleep with the device going and just deal with it during waking hours.
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Her conclusion: She has greater range of motion in her neck and less pain. She used it only on her neck and no other areas of her body. I’m not going to reveal her health conditions, but they are just as serious and chronic as any of my fellow chronic illness bloggers. I honestly don’t know if she’s going to be missing it in a few days, but I can tell you that I missed the Oska Pulse terribly while she had it, because pain started to creep back in. Now that it’s back with me, I pretty much have it duct taped to me – I’m not going to give it up again. I have it working on my right hip and the bursitis that has developed there.

Feel free to find out more info on their main website at Oska Wellness or on Facebook at Oska Wellness (Facebook).

Informational: A third-party, independent study showing that Oska Pulse can significantly reduce pain and improve mobility.

And isn’t it great when you can actually see that the Oska Pulse is clinically proven to reduce pain, like it is here in this study? It’s a double-blind clinical trial with a placebo! Super science!

Benefits of ordering a Oska Pulse device:
$55 off with discount code SICKDATING by visiting Oska Wellness
– Drug free
– No known adverse side effects (but please keep away from medical devices affected by magnets including pacemakers and adjustable shunts)
– Internal battery lasts up to 4 years
– 30-day money back guarantee!

Here is a video explaining and demonstrating the Oska Pulse!

My Adolescent Heart Is Cured

Right at the cusp of my childhood and the beginning of the time when I became self-conscious and awkward, we moved from a large metropolitan area with a population of 1.5 million people to a town of 300. My bus ride to school was long and filled with strange faces; it took an hour to get to a town of 700, where people rarely moved to or away from and were all largely related. In fact, I had a couple of classmates who were the offspring of first cousins, sentenced to lifelong special ed classes thanks to genes that were far too similar to have been considered safe to pair up.

I was bullied terribly my first year at the farm town school. It really wasn’t until the next year, 6th grade for me, that I started making friends. I also became a little more comfortable expressing myself – including being vocal about crushes on boys. One boy in particular held my attention for ten whole years. I’ll nickname him C. C. Deville, because he played guitar and wanted to be a rock star just like the guys in Poison and Motley Crue.

I made Valentine’s Day cards for everyone in my class. However, for C. C.’s card, I did exactly what I read about in a book, which was write a little poem without signing it:
“You can’t be my Valentine, you look too much like Frankenstein!”
He was intrigued! It worked, just like in the book! Except when he thought another girl wrote it for him, and he started making eyes at her. That wasn’t supposed to happen.

Two years later a friend from Minneapolis stayed with me for a couple of days and came with me to school. C. C. Deville was doing everything he could to charm her, and she flirted right back, even though she knew I liked him. She liked him too and thought he was very cute. Later that year he got suspended for smoking pot under the bleachers in the gym, so obviously he was a little bit of a bad boy. No wonder all of the ladies were flocking to him like bees to honey.

When I was in 9th grade, I tried out for and made the cheerleading squad for boys’ JV basketball…which meant that I would be cheering for HIM. Oh, sure, there were a few other boys who were cute too. But there was one time on an away game that I was floating on cloud nine because we had to drive two hours through a snow storm on the bus and I was sitting in front of him, and he let me borrow his leather jacket to sleep on it. I could smell his cologne. I thought maybe he might eventually warm up to me since he lent me this article of clothing. Instead, he started talking to one of the other girls on my squad and eventually started dating her. I had confessed to her that I had had a long-term crush on him and I’m pretty sure she spilled the beans to him if he hadn’t already figured out that I had been throwing myself at him for years at that point.

(2 years break to attend arts high school.)
(2 years pass while I move back and forth between Michigan and Minnesota.)

When I was 20, I discovered that a former classmate was living in my apartment complex. She said, “Oh, did you know that C. C. Deville also lives here?” I just about shit my pants. It turned out that he lived above me. Shortly after that I ran into him, said hi, exchanged pleasantries, talked him into putting my new license plate on my car for me. (“Oh, C. C., you’re so manly, thank you!” Okay, no, I didn’t say that, not really.) Sadly, I didn’t see him after his dad and my aunt died and I left on my big trip around the U.S. to find a new place to live.

Facebook has directed us back into each others’ lives many years later. However, he posts maybe 6 times a year, and my average is maybe 6 times a day – mostly goofy stuff, sometimes political stuff, and occasionally medical updates. As far as I can tell he hasn’t moved much, he doesn’t have children, may or may not play in a cover band, may or may not have a girlfriend, and may or may not work in a bank. In other words, we are really only peripheral observers. All that we have in common is that we have been in the same place at the same time in the distant past.

Today, for instance, he posted something on Facebook that really weirded me out – mainly because it didn’t seem like he wrote it (though he was taking credit for it, but its rhythm and spelling and punctuation didn’t match the rest of his writing in other posts), and because it’s some sort of rambling message about “God.”

It starts out nice enough: “Most of the time, our biggest obstacle is us. Maybe we’ve stopped dreaming.” True enough. Then: “Or, maybe we’re refusing to share our dreams out loud because we fear that God’s reputation might be at stake. God’s reputation is fine. It’s our reputation as leaders that we fear taking a hit. The dreams in our hearts were planted by God who loves us!”

“God’s reputation”? That, my friends, is anthropomorphism – assigning human qualities to non-human entities.

He goes on: “The day we stop following the dreams God has put in us is the day we allow ourselves to go into cruise control. When our biggest desire starts to shift from seeing God do great things to making everyone as comfortable as possible, we know we’re losing sight of how big God is.

“Fight the urge to maintain the status quo. Instead, do everything possible to advance the cause God placed in your heart. Stay focused on what could be rather than what has been.”

This is what has cured my heart once and for all: I feel like C. C. Deville deliberately lived a small life, looking for hero worship in a small town, and is now turning to “God” to try to make his life feel expansive and limitless. A classmate said that she was surprised at his preacher-like post (hell, I was too), but he replied that he wasn’t trying to be a preacher, he was just coming to his senses. I think it’s more like he realized that he’s middle aged and he hasn’t done anything he said he said he was going to do when he first reached adulthood.

For the longest time I felt inadequate and undesirable while he chose girls around me. Now I feel as if I have run circles around him with my life experiences and we would have nothing to talk about.

 

Digging for Gold

This morning, when I retrieved my mail while I was waiting for my sister and her husband to arrive, I received a notice from the Social Security Administration regarding my disability appeal. They said:

*You have the ability to stand and walk without assistance. (That’s a blatant lie – I use my cane for everything.)
*You have the ability to use your hands and arms to perform tasks. (Apparently it’s not a requirement for me to see what I’m doing.)
*You are able to get along with other people for short periods of time. (It’s called Minnesota Nice, bitches.)

“We do not have sufficient vocational information to determine whether you can perform any of your past relevant work. However, based on the evidence in the file, we have determined that you can adjust to other work.”

What would be really helpful is if they included a list of employers who had job offers for me and would not require me to be upright at any time. I can’t see well enough to travel to a location outside of my home, and most employers at least want an interview. So their insistence that I work “somewhere” is pretty weak, considering they don’t have an prospects lined up for me. (I don’t want to hear, “That’s how they do it.” I know they’re assholes.)

The next step is for my attorney to file a request for a hearing, which I understand takes 12-15 months to occur. In the meantime I’ll continue to go to doctor visits and try to find someone who can put a name on this disease and tell me what to expect.

This morning I went to the surgeon’s office at the U of MN to have my wound checked. When he put a fair amount of pressure on it, I started yelping, which led him to believe that there is still some pockets of pus hanging out back there.

Rather than going through the process of shooting me up with Lidocaine and slicing down deeper and purging out more junk, the surgeon took the stick end of a swab and used that to dig around in my wound – think of it as a meat tenderizer, he just kinda made hamburger out of my flesh – without any topical numbing whatsoever. I broke out in a sweat and I had tears rolling down my face. I knew I had to lay still but I was also fighting to get away from him and just make the PAIN STOP.

He said he was stepping out for a few minutes to allow the bleeding to die down; about 10 minutes and a good, sobbing cry later, his nurse came in to re-dress the wound. I’m glad I had that time to myself.

 

 

That Girl Is Poison

Recognize this phrase? I have a station set up on my Pandora titled “New Edition,” and since some of the members of the singing group New Edition split off and formed Bel Biv Devoe, the song “Poison” comes up on my play list. Bel Biv Devoe sang about the dangers of getting tangled up with a woman who was bad news; however, it’s not just romantic relationships that suffer when someone is nasty or devious – friends can be poisonous too.

I am eternally grateful to the friends I have made over the years who tolerate my weirdness and bluntness. Without a doubt, I am humbled by the friends who have mopped and sanitized my house when I have returned from the hospital. I am indebted to the people who have shuttled me around to doctor appointments and grocery store runs, and who have replenished my stock of food and supplies. I have tried to be a good friend in return when I have been able to, which admittedly has been very infrequent for the past 5.5 years because I can’t seem to stay well enough to be out of bed for any length of time.

Unfortunately, because I have the reputation of being a good listener and the voice of reason, my bedridden status has trapped me into being something of a therapist for some. One friend helped me get to a doctor’s appointment about five years ago. This woman and I had become friends back in 2006 when I was working a couple of jobs to pay for my second trip to Europe. That one ride of eight miles nearly cost me my sanity.

Because she found out that I was stuck in bed when I called her to help me get to the appointment, I believe she saw it as an opportunity to unload all that was bothering her – after all, I didn’t have anything better to do, right? This friend was going through a nasty divorce. She would call me at all hours nearly every day, crying and asking me what she should do in certain situations. She would never actually take my advice.

Our interactions became more strained. I finally resorted to telling her, “I don’t know what you should do” every time she called with a new crisis. She switched to texting me instead of calling me. I’m not sure if she thought my answer would somehow be different. Just for the record, it wasn’t.

This woman had a good heart, and I did get a ride from her when I needed it most. I just did not think that I was forever obligated to take on the stress of her failing marriage. For that reason, I cut her off completely. Subtlety wasn’t working, and telling her I was exhausted and stressed from fighting to be heard in doctor visits had absolutely no effect. I feel a twinge of sadness when her birthday shows up on my calendar, but I know that if I pick up the phone and wish her a happy birthday, the cycle starts again.

Another woman I became friends with was introduced by a mutual friend. We became acquainted after we spent a holiday together; I brought a movie that she had watched many times in her native country as a young girl, and she translated the film for us as it did not have any subtitles. I’m going to christen her Ms. Lederhosen.

I met Ms. Lederhosen as she was going through a nasty divorce with her second husband. I had suggested we get together for movies or nights out because it seemed like she needed to do things that would distract her from all of the emotionally draining stuff she was going through. Unfortunately, it was all she would talk about. I’m not exaggerating when I say that. I could say something like, “This tomato soup is good.” Ms. Lederhosen would reply by saying, “Oh, R. (her ex) likes soup too. You know, when we were married, he used to make me take care of his daughters, but they were lazy and did not like me. I would tell them to do something and they would go to their dad and he would tell them they didn’t need to do it.” It’s how every conversation would go. Everything tied back to her ex, no matter what I said, no matter what I tried to talk about.

I remember one time we made plans to see a movie. When we picked our seats out and got settled with our beverages and snacks, she started talking about the ex. The lights dimmed and the movie started; Ms. Lederhosen was not letting that stop her. Other patrons in the theater started saying “Shhhh!” loudly, turning towards us. She wouldn’t shut her trap. I told her that we should wait to chat until the movie was done. She kept talking in a loud voice because she had to finish that story. Well, she finally did…and then throughout the movie, she ran a commentary on what was happening on the screen. At that point I made a mental note to never see another movie in the theater with Ms. Lederhosen.

The ex was dragging out the divorce, filing extensions and demanding spousal support. Ms. Lederhosen was constantly calling and texting to rehash what he had done. At one point she asked me to proofread letters and documents for her because they were going to be used in her case. I would always set aside what I was working on and comb through her submissions because I knew how picky judges could be.

Ms. Lederhosen finally decided to pursue her U.S. citizenship. She didn’t have many friends, so she asked me to prepare a letter of good character for her attorney. Again, I set everything aside and whipped together a professional piece to convince the Court that she was a productive member of society.

She didn’t care for her job or boss, so Ms. Lederhosen sent me her resume so I could send it out to my contacts and enter it in my employer’s database. She wanted to respond directly to her ex’s demands through family court but didn’t want to pay her attorney to do it, so I arranged for a friend who was a paralegal in family law to assist her.

Ms. Lederhosen met a man through a woman who facilitated a social group for foreign-language speakers. I had hoped that meeting someone new would calm her down regarding the ex and encourage her to discuss other items of interest, but no. She even told me that her new man was complaining that she was too focused on the ex.

I was able to meet the new boyfriend when Ms. Lederhosen brought him and her little sister over to my house to visit; it was her sister’s first time in the U.S., so I made an effort to speak slowly – her English was good, but there is always a huge adjustment period when anyone is suddenly immersed in a country where the language is not their native tongue. Often Ms. Lederhosen would interrupt to talk about her ex. At one point, her current boyfriend grabbed her face, squeezed her cheeks and said “Stop talking.” She didn’t, of course. Her sister got completely put off and eventually just fell asleep on my couch while the boor hijacked the conversation.

A few months later, I had reached the point of blinding pain with my shunt – I had developed an uncontrollable leak. Ms. Lederhosen had indicated that she was at her boyfriend’s house but that if I needed a ride to the ER, she was more than willing. I took her up on the offer. They didn’t end up keeping me to bring me into surgery as I had hoped, because at that point they wanted to figure out which parts of the shunt I was allergic to, which would take months. They sent me home with big bad painkillers instead.

Facebook can make or break friendships, and in our case, it broke ours. Actually, for me it was the last straw. I had posted a story about a product that was being given to girls in sub-Saharan Africa to allow them to continue safely attending school during the bleeding days of their menstrual cycles. This charity was distributing silicone cups that could be used to collect the fluid for up to 12 hours and then be emptied and washed in private. Well, Ms. Lederhosen did not like that at all.

She hijacked the post by first saying that she would never want to use a product like that and that she was perfectly happy with her birth control pills. I explained that birth control pills were not an option in this region, and that it was a much safer alternative for the girls instead of their normal methods, which included stuffing their bodies with dirty rags, newspapers or mud. Ms. Lederhosen said she asked her boyfriend’s mom, and she agreed that she wouldn’t use a product like that either, and they were stupid for not using birth control pills. I explained that in this region, pills were not readily available or transported easily, and not everyone could or should be on hormones, and that the girls just really wanted to attend school and the cups were a viable option. Then Ms. Lederhosen posted a huge paragraph about how American women are stupid, fat and lazy, and she was able to lose weight by eating organic foods and exercising (which had nothing to do with what was being discussed).

I blocked her on Facebook. It’s no wonder she has few friends! Unfortunately, my phone at the time was not able to block calls or texts, so for two days she sent me all kinds of nasty messages about how she was prettier, smarter, more successful and thinner than me. Ms. Lederhosen told me how I was jealous of her relationship with her boyfriend, and how my college degree was the equivalent of elementary school in her home country. I sent back one message saying I was not interested in competing with her, and her messages just got nastier. She told me how she was a much better friend than me because she drove me to the ER that one time; of course, she conveniently forgot about all of the ways that I tried to help her when she needed it. Finally she stopped and went radio silent.

Two months later I got a card without a return address. I opened it to discover it was a note from Ms. Lederhosen, telling me she missed me as a friend and that we should be friends again. I didn’t have a return address for her and so couldn’t send anything back, and her info had been deleted from my phone long before that. A week later I got a text message from her saying that she didn’t hate me anymore and that we should be friends. I again told her that I did not want to compete with her, and that she said horrible things that made it difficult for me to want to be friends with her. Well, that just set her off again – 16 messages of vile, nasty words.

Around Thanksgiving of 2015, I received another text from her. Ms. Lederhosen said that she missed me and that I probably still had some bad feelings, but she was there for me if I needed her. The response that I didn’t send but really wanted to? No fucking way.