Tuesday, July 29, 2008

My Orthopods Are My Primary Care Docs

I finally went back to the orthopaedist yesterday for my hip. Though my hip started hurting again early this month, I felt like I'd been in that office too many times recently, and wanted to ensure that a "more normal" amount of time had elapsed between office visits. Truthfully, my orthopaedists have become my primary care physicians. The only times I end up in a normal GP's office is when I need a pre-op evaluation. When I get sick, I end up at Urgent Care more often than not (that happens once a year or so).

Anyway, as expected, the doc couldn't give me another cortisone shot so soon after the previous one, so he prescribed physical therapy. Sometimes, I wish they could prescribe PT over the phone. I knew that was what he'd do, and I had to take the entire afternoon off of work to go to the appointment. I even got a PT appointment for last night. It was just the initial eval, so after taking measurements of strength and range of motion, all the PT did was massage, ultrasound, then stim with ice. Even with "just" that, my hip was really sore all night and for most of today.

That didn't stop me from going to the gym today, though. Last week was a very hectic week at work, with many meetings for problems on one of my satellites and also mission rehersals for the upcoming launch on the other satellite I'm working on. As such, I only got into the gym 3 times last week, and I really wanted to get this week started off right. Since I had to skip yesterday because of the doc appointment and then PT, and because I had a session with Brian, I was particularly motivated to get back into my working out ways. Today felt reasonably good, even with the hip. I warmed up with 36 minutes on the elliptical, then he had me lifting for about 50 minutes, then he stretched out my hamstrings and such.

One goal I have for this week is to try to get into the pool at least twice this week. I went to cheer on Wendy at the Hagerstown Sprint Tri on Sunday. Watching those kinds of races is always a little tough, it consistently reminds me of how much I miss that kind of thing. Don't get me wrong, I can still swim, and once I resolve the issues with my hand, I should be able to bike, but I'll never run again (and I did love that). Since the hand is on hold until after September 16th, I figure I can at least try to get back onto a regular swimming schedule. I'm not quite sure when I'll get my swims in, given that I have to leave work no later than 3:30 to guarantee getting a spot in a lane at my gym's pool. Tomorrow (Wednesday), it's looking like I'll have a meeting until at least 4, and Thursday is a Brian day, so right now I'm thinking of swimming on Friday and Sunday. We'll see how that works out.

Speaking of hands, my left thumb is feeling better. I'm still having a little bit of pain with a pinch and a wide-grip, but all in all, it's at about 90%. My right hand, though, is still hurting quite a bit. Though I've gone back to a more normal amount of usage (since my left hand isn't splinted anymore), it still seems to be irritated. I wish I knew what was wrong so I could figure out how to make it better. Right now, I'm planning on going back to the hand doctor after September 16th. The 16th is the day that I'll be going to the genetics clinic up at Hopkins, so hopefully after that, I'll know if I do in fact have Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome. The only reason that may change is if my ankle keeps acting up.

My ankle's been unusually sore for a prolonged period of time. Not only is it sore in ways it's been before, some of the pain/discomfort is new. In one case, I think the bone around 2 of my screws is either irritated, or the screws are trying to push out, or the bone is growing a spur over the screw heads, as it hurts to put on shoes and put pressure over the area where 2 of the screws were inserted. The other observation I have is that lately, it's been swelling up when I walk around, or after workouts at the gym. The last time it did that, I'd torn (or re-torn) the ligaments in my ankle. Given that they used my own tissue for my last reconstruction, and given that I seem to have rather poor quality soft tissue, I'm slightly concerned that the re-re-reconstruction may have come undone. I'm going to play that one by ear. If the pain over the screws becomes much worse, I'm going to make the ankle a higher priority over the hand. I don't know what can be done about the ligament, in part it will depend on the EDS diagnosis, but if the screws have to come out, they have to come out (and that should be relatively easy).

Edited to fix typos, add link to Hagerstown Tri.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

A Bad Week Made Worse

This week was a difficult week at work. There is a problem on the project I'm working on, a problem that's occupying quite a bit of my time. I've also been helping fill in for another person, who was out all week on vacation, and there were some problems that showed up today with that project. And, as it turns out, there was another issue that popped up on a project I'm consulting on. I love being busy, and I love that my co-workers feel that they can rely on me, but it still made for a rather trying week. I'm glad that the weekend is here, and that I should be able to relax a bit over the next 3 days.

This was a bad week, injury-wise.
My left thumb, sprained about 5 weeks ago, had a flare-up over the last week or so. It felt like my thumb was getting better, excepting for pinching and doing a wide grip, but then it started really hurting again, like it did just after I first sprained it. It hurt enough that I decided to go see a hand doctor. I opted not to see the hand doc who did my first hand surgery (Dr. Leo Rozmaryn at The Orthopaedic Center in Rockville, MD), but ended up seeing Dr. Miller of Town Center Orthopaedics in Reston, VA (he's much closer). I don't think I'll ever go back to Dr. Berdia, the one who did my 2nd hand surgery. Anyway, Dr. Miller said that for a normal person, because the thumb is difficult to "not use," it can take a couple months to get back to 100%. He also mentioned that I'm not "normal" (given that it seems likely that I have Ehlers-Danlos, or at least some form of Hypermobility Syndrome).

My right hand, broken 3 times, also started hurting more again. Maybe it's that I've been using it more, since hurting my left thumb, but it's definitely feeling worse than usual. Don't get me wrong, my right hand (5th metacarpal, specifically), has been hurting for over a year now, I'm kind of used to it...but this is actually hurting more than it usually does. If normally, a "bad" day is a 7 out of 10 on the pain scale (with a "bad" day coming once every 2 weeks or so), this last week or so it's been an 8.5 out of 10 (where every day has had a bad moment). I guess the only up-side here is that once I'm ready to deal with my right hand again, I feel comfortable going back to see Dr. Miller, instead of driving all the way up to Rockville. I got kind of frustrated after my last hand surgery, that the surgery really seemed to do nothing for the pain or the other symptoms, and that the doc didn't seem to know what to do next. On top of being frustrated, life's been incredibly busy since then (various spacecraft in 24/7 testing), and given that I've got 2 launches coming up this year (programs I'm directly involved in), I'm trying to wait until after at least the first launch to see another doc again. That should co-incide nicely with figuring out if I do in fact have Ehlers-Danlos, for whatever that'll be worth.

Finally, my hip has started flaring up again over the last 3 days. Maybe it's got to do with me doing the elliptical so much...I usually flip a coin before figuring out what my cardio is going to be at the gym. I'm at the gym, on average, 5-7 days per week. I lift on 2 of those days, so it's 30 minutes of cardio followed by an hour of lifting. On the other days, I just do cardio, for a little over an hour. Two weeks ago, I had an entire week of flipping "tails," which corresponds for me to doing the exercise bike. Last week, it was an entire week of flipping "heads," corresponding to the elliptical. This week, it's been 2 days of elliptical and 1 day of bike so far (I took off on Monday). While training this afternoon (lifting day), I felt my hip hurting. Now that I'm home, it hurts to roll onto my side. I guess this is probably my tendonitis coming back, but I had hoped that it was gone. I had a cortisone injection in my hip about 7 weeks or so ago, and it was feeling pretty good, but now that it's hurting to roll onto my side, or do certain motions, I'm a bit...nervous. I guess if it persists I'll have to go back to an orthopod, maybe get into some physical therapy. Have I mentioned how much I hate PT?

To top it all off, my ankle's been feeling stiff/sore all week. I guess it's normal, it's hard for me to tell. It's been 4 years and a week or so since my fusion, and it's been feeling great in general, but this week has been especially uncomfortable.

Oh well. 3 day weekend, that can only be good, right?