I awoke again at some odd hour with stomach still rumbling and a burning inflammatory pain in my muscles accompanied by an intensely salty taste in my mouth. It was the same way I felt before ending up in Piedmont and I knew it wasn’t a good sign. I had an appointment yesterday morning for a physical therapy evaluation and hoped this feeling would pass and that things would go smoothly, but all I really felt like doing was going back to bed to sleep this off.
Transportation called to say they were coming between 8 and 9 AM and as I got dressed I noticed that my throat felt a little strange but I couldn’t quite put my finger on how. It was almost as if I had some sort of acute allergy, but I have actually been lucky in that department and have never been prone to allergies, so I figured it must be something else.
Before 8 there was someone at the door. I opened it to find a middle-aged black woman dressed in what looked like a blue scrubs outfit and wearing an ID badge like they do in hospitals.
My mind must have not been fully alert yet because for some strange reason I got a little mixed up and wondered if maybe this had something to do with my search for a personal assistant. I thought it was a bit too early for the nurse’s visit from Medicaid, but really couldn’t place anyone I knew in this type of clothing. She identified herself as being with the transportation company and I told her I’d be out in just a few minutes once I’d gathered my ice water.
In my hurry to get out the door I totally forgot my pillow, something I rarely do and always regret. This power wheelchair is hard on my butt and the back of my left leg especially and it wasn’t long before muscle spasm and a growing stiffness started to set in there and in my shoulders and upper arms on both sides. A slim elderly woman with dark denim jeans sat in the back of the van and we dropped her off at a day program downtown. She clambered past me saying hello and squeezed past to exit through the right-hand door on the passenger side.
The pain continued building to about an 8 and I was beginning to really need some medication by the time we started heading in the direction of Emory Rehab. Hospital. When we finally arrived at our destination I got off the lift and entered through some automatic glass double doors and into the lobby where a young and chic light-skinned black woman sat behind a circular desk at a computer terminal. She was smiling with a pleasant fine featured face and nicely quaffed hair that looked as though it had been straightened or as though she was mixed with Caucasion or possibly Somali though she reminded me of Shirley Jones, who played the mother on that old show The Partridge Family that was popular in the 70s. She greeted me as I passed by and I spoke briefly but was mostly focused on taking something for the pain before I got into any exercise, so I entered the room where I obtained my paperwork, signed it and then headed upstairs to the 5th floor via elevator.
The building was old with hard floors and wooden paneling that had been painted over and some of which had chipped and I didn’t feel entirely comfortable there but couldn’t figure out exactly why. Maybe it was because the lighting was dim and the place seemed outdated as though it were Emory’s step-child, a far cry from the slick danish design utilized in most of its other buildings (not that I like that decor either, but somehow the building seemed neglected).
Although the office staff seemed very kind I picked up an uneasy energy. Usually I am right about such things even before the feeling is validated with hard data. The clerk gave m some more paperwork to fill out some of which had questions on it I had never encountered in physical therapy before, questions about making social conversation and expressing oneself, which was kind of uncanny because I was having just exactly those types of problems in addition to my muscular problems. My cognitive processes seemed stuck in a mire this day and I really didn’t feel like talking. It wasn’t depression but more a matter of just feeling overwhelmed and maybe a little out of my element.
Soon a woman approached me introducing herself as Beth. She seemed kind of wooden and mechanical and there was a pushiness about her personality that seems common in the physical therapy field, not in the same way that Dr. V. is pushy, but more a type of edginess as though there was an anger hiding just beneath the surface.
I found myself distracted by all the sounds in the building and had trouble focusing enough to finish filling out the form. She brought it and me into a large dimly lit atrium with lots of padded benches in it. It felt a little too public to me but I tried to block out all the people working out on various machines, benches and parallel bars and watched to see what she was going to say or do next.
First she launched into a mini lecture about how this isn’t for everyone and that she had to warn me that after the evaluation she might determine that it would not be of benefit to me.
She began going through the rest of the questions to get as many answers as she could. I tried my best to answer but the time-frames asked were just too hard for me to remember and finally she put down the form and turned her attention to asking me some things such as did I live alone and whether I had pets. I told her about my dog Carmella and my Ball Python, Velvet. She reacted with a strong aversion to the very thought of a Python stating that she knew that Pythons “squeeze you to death” and seemed very hypervigilant based on what she’d heard about those pets released into the Everglades.
This is something I know about and those poor animals have a much undeserved bad rap perpetuated by ignorant and fear-mongering people, but seeing how Beth was positioned to strike at little or no provocation I thought better of engaging in further discussion with her on that topic after saying how innocuous Ball Pythons are and how they are more likely to hide their head than to attack people, and that what she most likely heard about were the really big constrictors such as African Rock Pythons, to which she said, “A python is a python. You can’t convince me to buy into that. They’re an invasive species!” Honestly, if the truth be told I felt she was the invasive species in my personal space and in my life whereas my sweet little Velvet was a comfort who posed no such threat. I wished at that moment I was home with my pets where I felt safe and at peace.
This felt all wrong and I thought if I have to work with this woman I don’t know how honestly I will get through it without a snag. Her irritation was like her skin turned inside out with all her internal organs exposed for the world to see. It was more than I wanted to know.
She engaged in some sort of nitpicking with one of the other physical therapists across from the bench I was lying on. I could not hear the words but it was clear that the two disliked each other and were barely tolerating working together. I sat up and looked over at the two, at which time Beth said “I need you to wait. I’m having an issue with someone.” Again, I thought TMI for the workplace. This unprofessional display only intensified the uncomfortable atmosphere and I wanted to leave. The pain medication and antispasmodic I’d swallowed before the session started had yet to take effect, and overall the day was not off to a great start. I’d told her briefly about my waiting for the movement disorder specialist at UF and how far in advanced they were booked up. She seemed genuinely shocked.
I explained to her that I have alot of fatigue and that I do best in the water, so I would like to have that be the focus. She commented that we couldn’t do that today and seemed to have an overall fatalistic demeanor about it as a whole. I’d brought a swimsuit just in case and wished I could just submerge myself to remove the huge weight hanging on my frame, but no such relief was forthcoming. As for massage I didn’t feel comfortable with her touching me with the type of energy she emitted, so I didn’t bother asking about that.
The evaluation that followed was one of the strangest I’d ever encountered among the numerous evaluations I’d had at various PT practices around the city of Atlanta. She had me lie down on the padded bench and pushed my legs into various positions. She did nothing with my arms although I have significant pain and spasticity in those too. She pressed and pushed and prodded my feet and legs in various lying down and sitting positions to see what my muscles would do. There was alot of jerkiness. Then she had me take a few steps on the parallel bars. I was completely exhausted after just a few steps, muscles in my upper body burning and inflamed as I supported my weight on my arms and shoulders.
As I got back into my wheelchair and we came back to the padded bench her expression had taken on a sad appearance. I knew that look well as I’d seen it before when I’d tried CPAP in the sleep lab and failed miserably, and the technician had been so saddened by the significance her experience had taught her about patients in my condition that she could barely keep her composure. It was clear that Beth too was ascribing an ominous meaning to my prognosis based on whatever she’d learned about body mechanics and that it wasn’t good. She didn’t elaborate, but she didn’t have to. I got the gist of it.
“I’m sorry” she began with a grave look on her face as if a close relative had just passed away and she was delivering the bad news. “I really don’t think you’ll benefit from physical therapy. Your condition is unlikely to improve with exercise. I think you should just do what you’ve been doing. And other than that pressing down on your feet when you are able since the spasticity seems to be less when you apply counter-pressure. It seems to be much more jerky when you’re moving your legs in the air.”
This came as no surprise to me and actually under the circumstances I was rather relieved. I guess you could say it was a good news/bad news scenario. I have honestly been in no shape to do much of anything strenuous and thought Dr. V. was being a bit overly-optimistic in issuing such a referral, especially given the fact that aquatherapy was not being offered to me. Beth wished me well at UF and I told her that my impression is that my brain was probably sending the wrong messages to my muscles and that maybe the clinic in Florida would identify a medication that will reduce this to a low roar. She agreed and we said our goodbyes.
Once back downstairs I called transportation and told the driver I was ready to go home. She stated that she’d be by in about a half hour. I sat in my chair patiently waiting and drinking my ice water. Suddenly out of nowhere I began to feel severely faint. Leaning down to hang my head between my legs it seemed started to reduce the onslaught but it was short-lived, followed by a stronger wave which was worse than the first and this one threatened to take me down, my vision became swimmy and then began to turn black. Then my hearing started to go. When I realized that sitting in my chair with head down wasn’t resolving it I waived over the receptionist to the left of me and asked if she could help me lie down or find a gurney. She replied that there were no gurneys but that she could help me to the leather couch at the other side of the room. I told her to prop up my legs in a position elevated above my head and she did. It took quite awhile before it died down and it was touch and go before things subsided enough for me to get my bearings. A nice woman came over to help me and she offered to call transportation back since a half hour had long passed and no ride yet, but the phone was rolling over to another number with just a voicemail, so I had her call quality assurance with the broker system to let them know I needed to get home and into bed ASAP. She did so and once we thought they were close to the entrance two women helped me back into my wheelchair and out to the driveway, but it turned out to be someone else’s transportation van, not mine.
The second woman who had helped me call quality assurance went in and brought out some saltine crackers which I was really grateful for. I ate several and in a few minutes began to feel a little more solid. Finally my ride appeared and the driver told me that she’d been tied up with another crisis; an elderly woman needed to go to the ER she’d scheduled to pick up for a doctor’s appointment. She had family but apparently they couldn’t take her themselves so that tied her up there at her house longer.
When I arrived home I immediately wrote my pulmonologist on the Patient Portal telling him what happened and that I really need his help. He’d answered my message from the night before asking if one of the doctors from Piedmont would refer me to Vanderbilt or put down the official diagnosis. I explained to him that they were hospitalists only and that they probably would not since I’d been out of their hospital 3 months already. I’m trying like hell not to end up back at an ER.
I never heard back from Dr. W. a week ago after the message I sent through her receptionist. I plan to call her back but have an MRI today on my TMJ at 8:00 AM. Will get on that as soon as I get home. Just want to get this appointment out of the way and then stay in bed until we can get treatment on board.
I fear after how I was abused and charted on at Emory that any ER in the city most likely would treat me badly, not treat me at all, and it would be a wasted trip anyway. All ERs are hooked up electronically and the first records they look at are your last ER visit. That would not be good. I wonder how long Emory will let this go on and how severe it will get.
My GP never lined up a hospitalist to work with for direct admission in such an event and it’s getting dangerously close to my needing hospitalization once again. I need to call his supervisor back and get her to find out why and tell her about these episodes becoming more frequent now. I need to let her know how important this is and that I cannot safely go to an ER and that to do so would surely put me at further risk. Things are getting really crucial now. Someone has to do something, and soon!