Saturday, August 20, 2016

The Perils Of Ilene

Those of you who read my blog regularly know that this year has been one of those “The Perils of Ilene” years. It has been a pain in the butt, but a series of learning opportunities, nonetheless. Though it has been temporarily extremely uncomfortable, inconvenient and sometimes painful and fodder for paranoia, the key word is “temporarily”. And I am sincerely grateful for that.

It seems like having surgery just affected me in a lot of ways. So, I'll tell you right now, if you can stay out from “under the knife”, do so.

I had my one-year Total Knee Replacement checkup this month. The x-rays revealed that my bones have grown into the implant nicely, although I have to tell you that they were not fun to look at because looking at them brings home the fact that my bones were actually sawed off in order to install the new knee joint. And I really don't like thinking about that. But I was in constant pain before. I often wonder why they can't just open up your knee, scrape out the old, torn up cartilage, and glue in some new cartilage. I know they've tried injecting liquid silicone (no incision) but apparently it doesn't stay where you put it and that's kind of scary to think you might have silicone floating around in your body somewhere that it wasn't intended to be. Hubs and I know a man who's trying to put off knee surgery until after he gets moved into a new house he had built this summer, and he had injections of what he said was “rooster comb”. This was done by a doctor who is in the same group as my knee surgeon. This group, by the way, is supposed to be the best in the region. But the injections haven't allowed him to be pain free and they have made it clear to him that it is only a temporary fix, at best.

I can't say that I've been totally pain-free, either. Of course, recovery after surgery was very painful. The exercises I had to do were, also. The meds I had to take were not without their side-effects, among which were insomnia and constipation. Never take being able to sleep or poop for granted, because you can be one miserable puppy if you can't.

For anyone contemplating knee replacement, here's my advice:
  • Get all your dental work done beforehand, because even to get your teeth cleaned, you have to take antibiotics beforehand because there is a risk of infection. You will be told, graphically, how infection can travel from one place in your body to any weakened area, and that, for a period of two years, will be your new knee. Forever if you are diabetic or have other health issues.
  • If you have ANY other work that needs to be done, such as cataract surgery, get that done beforehand, too. Same reason.
  • If you have ANY health issue that can be resolved before surgery, do that.
  • If you weigh 200 pounds or more, lose that weight beforehand, or your incision will have to be longer. Especially if you have big legs.
  • Find out what kind of metal is in your implant beforehand. If you don't know for certain that you are not sensitive to it, have yourself tested to make sure. This is something you DO NOT want to find out later. I was lucky. But I know someone who found out he was sensitive to titanium the hard way and you seriously do not want to go there.
  • Be your own advocate as far as your exercise program is concerned. Don't assume that you will get adequate physical rehab as part of the package with your surgery. This is not always the case, depends on your doctor and what he orders for you, and many times, THAT depends on what your insurance is willing to pay for. Don't cut corners on this!! After surgery, you are in a race with scar tissue. Make sure you are the winner. Get these books, Total Knee Replacement and Rehabilitation: The Knee Owner's Manual, by M.D. Daniel J. Brugioni, and Fast Track Your Recovery From A Total Knee Replacement: How to Eliminate Pain and Pain Medicine The Quickest Way Possible, by Michelle Stiles, and read them, maybe as much as six months in advance, if you can, because they contain advice you may not get elsewhere, and exercises that you should do before you have surgery that will help you come back faster after, with less pain. The one by Ms. Stiles includes instructions for a tool that you can make with PVC pipe. Both books can be ordered on Amazon and get very good reviews. At this writing, Amazon even has some very reasonably-priced used copies available. I have bought used books through Amazon for about ten years, everything from paperbacks to high school textbooks, and I've never had a disappointment.
Something that I have been dealing with since cataract surgery is that now, I have “dry eyes”. Right after surgery I began to notice what felt like a bubble floating around on my eye. I asked about it and was rather matter-of-factly told it was the “wet” form of dry eye. Apparently I'm no longer making tears that have enough oil in them, so my eyes are making more tears in an effort to get enough oil. Does that sound strange? Also strange that I never noticed it before cataract surgery. Other than that, it has not bothered me at all and I have not used eyedrops or felt the need to. However, beginning about three weeks ago, I noticed that my eyes were feeling “wonky”. I've had cataract surgery on both eyes, and a retinal peel on my right eye, back before the knee surgery. I felt these surgeries were necessary in that they would only worsen with time. If you need a retinal peel and you don't have it, the damage left behind is, in most cases, not reversible. In my case, my left eye has for several years had the better vision. Vision loss that I experienced in the right eye did not improve much after surgery, but at least, now eighteen months post-surgery, it is no worse. I can still go without glasses for all except reading of small print, and for that I just use reading glasses that can be bought over the counter. Eyeglasses bought in town are very, very expensive. When Hubs had a new eyeglasses prescription to fill, he had the first pair done here. Not only was it very expensive, but he had to wait a long time to get them and he even had to place several calls to the store at the mall because they were not ready when they were supposed to be. He got a second pair in Owasso while I was in the hospital after knee surgery. He just stopped in on his way home, they had them ready the next day, and the price was far lower than what he had paid for pretty much exactly the same thing, here. I don't think we will ever buy eyeglasses in this town again. I don't know why things have to be so dang expensive here. Well, yes I do..... But I often wonder how they can sleep at night knowing they gouge the very people who are least able to afford it – those who do not have transportation or are not physically able to drive from here to Owasso. It's not just eyeglasses, either. Don't get me started on why solving the riddle as to why most people spend their money out of town is such a no-brainer. …. Just don't.

But anyway, I have another vision challenge in that I have Cogan's Map-Dot Fingerprint Syndrome. It's an inherited disease, and I have always had it. One of the problems is that it makes your eyes very sensitive to bright light. I remember, as a child, posing for a photograph in the bright sunlight caused me to squint and would make tears run down my face. My mother had no clue, and, as was her personality in most things, thought that I was just being uncooperative. Mom dealt rather severely with lack of cooperation and so whenever she wanted to take pictures, it was almost always done out in the sun so she didn't have to buy flashbulbs, which were expensive, and that usually meant a spanking, or at the very least a harsh scolding, for me. And she wondered why I always hated having my picture taken. Another no-brainer. I didn't even own a pair of sunglasses until I was grown. Mom thought they were a fashion accessory and nothing more.

I never really had much trouble, otherwise, with Cogan's till I got in my 60's, and then usually I'd just feel like I had something in my eye. I'd wash my eye out using plain water in an eye-cup and I'd be fine.

But having surgery on my eyes resulted in some stuff I didn't expect. While you recover from surgery, you have an eye-drop regimen to follow so that you'll heal without infection and other complications. The eyedrops seemed like they drained through my tear ducts and out into the back of my throat. They gave me a sore throat, the roof of my mouth burned, and I felt like I had gastric reflux, which persisted for quite awhile after I was finished with my eye-drop regimen from the third, and last, eye surgery. You'd think, as much as these dang eye-drops cost, they'd make me feel good all over. The Vigamox was the most expensive: $114 for a tiny, tiny bottle, that, after my second surgery and therefore my second bottle purchase, I considered drilling a hole through the lids and wearing the pair as earrings, since they were about as expensive as diamonds. Another thing that persisted after the eyedrops were gone was blepharitis, which means, “inflammation of the eyelids”. My eyelashes started falling out and today I do not have many. Some of them now curl in the wrong direction and THAT's not fun, either. Apparently, the way you cure yourself of Blepharitis is that you use warm compresses, you clean your eyelids with No Tears Formula baby shampoo several times a day and you hope you get better. It turned out that the baby shampoo irritated the skin on my face, I developed perioral dermatitis and had to go to a dermatologist for antibiotics and a tube of ointment that cost me $150.

I cannot advise you not to have eye surgery. Your vision is so important that there is no choice. I cannot tell you not to use the post-surgical eyedrops. In fact, I cannot tell you what to do with your eyes because it has to be something you feel good about. I wouldn't do anything except follow doctors' orders while I was still healing from surgery, whether I feel good about what's in the drops or not.  This is a time when I just feel like the risk is too high.  But these are things I would've done different when Blepharitis and Dry Eye reared their ugly heads.
  • First, I would never, ever, use baby shampoo on my eyelids or any other part of my face and I question whether it should be used on your baby. You can wash your baby's head with whatever you use on their skin, just use it sparingly and carefully. When they are toddlers and have a lot more hair, you can easily teach them how to hold their head so nothing drips down into their eyes. I always shampood my little ones' hair in shallow water in the bathtub, with me kneeling at the side, and rinsing was done by just leaning them back while they pretended to be a mermaid.
  • Second, to clean the eyelid, I 'd make some fresh Chamomile tea with half a cup of distilled water to one teabag (or one teaspoon of loose dried flowers), steeped for 15 minutes. For loose tea, strain it through a coffee filter, fold the filter to enclose the wet flowers so that it resembles a teabag, and use this as a compress over the eye. Make sure the tea is no longer hot and then lay it on the eye and press it lightly to conform. Allow the bag to be just a little drippy so that some of the tea will seep into the eye under the closed eyelid. Just lie there with the bag(s) on the eye(s) and think nice thoughts. Then, wipe off the eye(s) with a clean cloth, dampened in, preferably, distilled water. Chamomile tea has some anti-fungal and antibiotic properties. Many people use this method to cure Pink Eye.
  •  Then, I would use organic, cold-pressed castor oil, sold in a glass bottle with an expiration date on the label. Can be ordered from VitaCost or bought at Whole Foods and probably some other stores where organic products and vitamins are sold. If the glass bottle comes equipped with a dropper, so much the better. I'd put a drop on my finger and lightly massage it into my eyebrows and eyelashes. I've read where some people actually use the dropper and they put a drop right into the eyes, at bedtime, because it is so thick it's blurry to see through for a little while. They say it treats Dry Eye and keeps your eyes from sticking shut as sometimes happens when people who have Cogan's first wake up in the morning. Also that it makes the white of the eye look very, very white.
Castor oil is normally sold in drugstores as a laxative, but I don't know if anyone uses it for that anymore. I certainly wouldn't use anything but the best if I'm going to put it in or around my eyes. So if you buy the cheap stuff, use it in your soap calculations to make bubbly soap, or rub it on your feet and elbows to soften the skin. Edgar Cayce used to use it in hot packs to treat arthritis and muscle spasms and lots of other things. Do some looking on the Internet and you'll find a lot of information. Castor oil is the additive in Restasis that lubricates. Restasis has a reputation for causing eyelashes to grow thicker. Castor Oil is known for activating hair follicles. So don't be spreading it on your chin or upper lip, just so ya know. Still, it's much better than mineral oil, which is the lubrication ingredient in Systane Balance. I won't use that, even though it's recommended by my ophthalmologist. Mineral oil is a petroleum product. If people won't use mineral oil on their garden cornsilks anymore to kill worms for fear of contamination of the corn, WHY would anyone put mineral oil IN THEIR EYES?? But then, why would anyone put glycerine in their eyes, and glycol is on the ingredient list of all these commercial eyedrops. I fully believe, someday in the near future, we'll be seeing on TV one of those lawyer advertisements saying, “If you or someone you know used eyedrops containing glycerine or mineral oil, listen carefully....” Whatever you choose to put in or around your eyes, do make sure it's fresh and clean. If it has an expiration date, make sure you're within it. The major concern about homemade preparations is avoiding the presence of bacteria. Considering that people still swim, I don't understand how they manage, because there are all kinds of contaminates in the water people swim in.

Lately I've found an interesting website at Earthclinic.com/cures. It's kind of like a forum where people post about what they've used for certain maladies that has worked for them. Some of the people there are putting coconut oil in their eyes for lubrication of dry eye. I can see how coconut oil might be just the thing, because it has such a low melting point, I wouldn't think there'd be any danger of it clogging your tear ducts. One person has written that the coconut oil needs to be organic, cold-pressed, extra-virgin, and made from fresh coconuts. She states that some coconut oils are made from dried coconuts that contain mycotoxins. She says she uses the Harvest Bay brand because she called and they confirmed they do not make it from dried coconuts. I'm just jaded enough to wonder if they'll tell the truth on the phone, where no one could prove they'd actually said it. So I leave that to you, in case you ever use it. I see that brand is available on Amazon. Of course we know that coconut oil has healing properties.

But this is, as Paul Harvey used to say, “the rest of the story”.

Aside from my eyes feeling “wonky” lately, I've had an additional problem in that, twice, I've had a broken blood vessel in my right eye. This has concerned me very much because it's the one that I had retinal surgery on. So because of the first broken blood vessel, and the fact that my eyes were aching, I called my ophthalmologist. They always take me in right away because they know what my issues are. And because I used to work there, as the Transcriptionist. Dr. Jeff was out of town so I saw Dr. Richard. A lot of the clinic's patients refer to Dr. Richard as “The Old Man”. Dr. Jeff is his son.

My vision was good, so was my eye pressure. He said it actually looked a lot better than he thought it was going to when he saw my name on his schedule. When he found out I hadn't been using Systane on a regular basis, he told me that “the time to water the grass is not after it's started turning brown”. That's the way Dr. Richard talks. But he didn't seem concerned about the broken blood vessel and said there was no evidence of any damage or infection. I asked which dry eye product he thought I should use, and he said, “Whatever feels the best!” I'm sure he'd be horrified if he even knew I'd ever used something like chamomile tea compresses for my eyes. And I have. And I find it very soothing. So now we're even, because I'm kinda horrified about the stuff that's in prescription eye drops.

Then, a day or two after that, I had another broken blood vessel. It was more dramatic than the first. In my mind, I've considered lots of reasons why it happened. Mostly that, since it is very uncomfortable to kneel on my knee-scar, I've been doing a lot of bending at the waist in the garden. And lately I've been pulling weeds. But, you know, I've been doing that since spring, without any problems until now.

I was sitting on the patio at dark thirty on Friday morning, trying to think about when all this really kicked into being and what was I doing different, and
  • I've been taking the Centrum and Ocuvite together, because I was told by my retina doctor in Tulsa that it was safe to do so;
  • I've been eating cucumbers, more than just one or two, every day. Since they are Crunchy Munchers and the peel is not bitter, they say you can eat them unpeeled. And so I HAVE been eating them unpeeled, believing that there would be more vitamins and minerals that way.
The thing about the medical profession is that we have unrealistic expectations that they will know everything. But they don't always. So we have no choice but to be our own advocate whenever something doesn't “feel” right. No, we're not doctors. But doctors don't have the time to think about us unless we're sitting right there in front of them. Even if we are, they schedule patients every five minutes or so and even early in the day they're already running behind. So they don't look intently at your general appearance. They don't ask you many questions. And I've never had a doctor call me and say, “You know, I've been thinking....

I really think the little ideas that pop into my head are how God talks to me. I mean, I never "hear His voice" like some people say they do, and I really wish I could. But thoughts come. New thoughts. Things I never considered before. I got to thinking about a conversation I had with Lena, Dr. Jeff's RN, when I told her I'd noticed that the whites of my eyes look kind of greenish to me and I hadn't really ever noticed that before. She asked me if I was eating a lot of something that was dark green, like kale, and said that will affect you the same way consuming too many carrots will turn you orange. Well, I hadn't been eating any kale, but oh, those cukes! So there's the source of the green, I'm sure. I mentioned it to Dr. Richard, too, and he said there's an underlayment of color under the white of the eye that shows through in certain lighting, which would indicate it was always like that and I just hadn't noticed, but I think if it was that, I would've noticed at some point before now.

So the thought came to me Thursday morning, out there on the patio where I say my morning prayers and drink my morning coffee, to look on the internet to see if there are any side-effects that eating a lot of cucumbers can cause.

And, oh, yessssss. Toxins in the peel, mostly having to do with any part of it that tastes bitter, which these cucumbers don't, except for maybe right there at the blossom end, just a tiny twinge on some of them, not all, but I haven't been cutting that part off. ​The flesh of the cucumber is a natural diuretic and I knew that, thought it was a good thing for me during the summer months. But it turns out, if you eat too many, it can seriously dehydrate you. I guess that could make dry eye worse, right? Dehydrated blood vessels break easily. That could explain the blood in my right eye.

So, I gave the cukes I had to someone who has enough family around their table that nobody will be eating them in large amounts. And I didn't tell them that the cukes could be eaten with the peel on. So most likely they'll peel them, being used to grocery store cukes that are simply NASTY if you don't peel them. I have a cuke left hanging on the vine that I hope will make seed and I'm not going to water the vines anymore. If they die off, that'll be fine because I've had all I'm going to eat or use for the year.  If I have any next year, they'll be peeled, that's for sure.

I haven't taken any vitamins since Thursday, either. I checked the labels and the Ocuvite with Lutein doesn't appear to have any of the same vitamins in it that Centrum Silver does. But eliminating it temporarily, just to be safe. When I start taking them again, I'll start with one and add the other after I've seen whether I have any problems.

On Friday I only went out to the garden to pick, and I tried to be careful not to lift anything heavy or bend over at the waist. I did the warm compresses with Chamomile tea, three times that day. I'm using the Systane Ultimate, which doesn't have mineral oil in it but does have Glycol and also some preservatives, and I really hate using it. But we won't be getting to Tulsa until sometime next week and that's where the nearest Whole Foods store is, where I'll get my cold-pressed, organic castor oil in the glass bottle, and some extra-virgin, cold-pressed coconut oil made from fresh coconuts. All I have now is stuff that's not something I want to risk using in my eyes.

Who knows, once the cucumbers work their way totally out of my system, maybe I won't need any of this at all. But I like the idea of getting my eyelashes to grow in again, and my eyebrows have gotten pretty thin, too. So I might still use the castor oil for that, and surely, if we're supposed to trust it in Restasis, maybe it won't hurt if some of it migrates into my eyes.

There is also some evidence that adding coconut oil into the diet might help, and so this morning I fried my egg and made pan-toast in it, instead of butter.

This is Saturday morning and there is considerably less blood in my eye than there was. Eventually I might start taking the vitamins again, carefully, starting with one of them and adding the second a couple of weeks later and then seeing how I do. But no more cukes, this summer. Next summer, if I have a bumper crop, I'll make certain I don't eat any of them till after they're peeled. And not so many every day.  I will watch carefully for any side-effects, even then.

So!  That about covers it.  Y'all rock on.  Hubs and I will do the same.  Or try to.  Hugs xoxoxoxo