Tag Archives: healing

Tonsil Tales

Back in the good ole days, or so I remember being told, tonsils were removed as often as wisdom teeth, as a matter of course, as an extraneous appendage we no longer needed. I don’t know if that’s true or not but I was scheduled to have my tonsils out at age six. However, my family, always running on the dysfunction track, was derailed the day I was supposed to go in for surgery. My parents were fighting and I never did get my tonsils out for a very very long time.

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I spent my childhood and teen years getting colds like every other child but I as often got tonsilitis, involving very painful and swollen throat and bouts of antibiotics. By my teen years I averaged four colds/tonsilitis episodes a year. Some of the symptoms can be headache, fever, cough, trouble swallowing, sore throat and chills.  I think I was 18 or 19 when I started to noticed it felt odd when I swallowed, like something was stuck in my throat. When I opened my mouth wide, I could see small lumps of white at the back of my throat that sometimes I could remove with a finger. Basically food was getting caught in the holes in my tonsils. This did nothing for my breath either.

Finally, in art college the tonsillitis got so bad that even my tongue was swollen. I had cankers all over my gums and I couldn’t really eat a thing. Of course I’d let it get too bad, being a student, trying to finish projects and not getting enough sleep. So eventually I went in to the school clinic, telling them I had tonsillitis. They told me, you don’t know that. We’ll take a look. And they took a look and said, you have tonsillitis; why did you take so long?

More antibiotics but that finally decided it for me. I made an appointment to see my family doctor, the one I had had since I was about ten, who had seen me go through bouts of this over the years. I mentioned the holes and the food sticking in them. My doctor didn’t even look in my throat but told me it was nerves. I said it absolutely was not. I’m not a nervous person. Then he told me that lots of people got this. I said, they do? It was this incident of incompetence, plus the one where my doctor told me I didn’t clean myself properly when I went to him about a bladder infection, that I tossed him by the wayside and went to a new doctor. That doctor couldn’t see much in my throat but he sent me to a specialist. The specialist took less than a minute to look at my tonsils and say, “You have holes in your tonsils. When do you want them out?”

And so, at the tender age of 22 I had my tonsils out. And something I realized once I healed from the surgery was that I had never ever been able to swallow correctly. My throat had always been swollen. If I’d had my tonsils out at six, like I was supposed to, I would have missed a lot less school as a kid and not been subjected to so many antibiotics. Luckily I didn’t take the incompetent advice of a doctor who should have retired, and I sought out another opinion. I don’t  miss those tonsils at all.

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Hospital Food

It’s been nearly two years since my friend Bear died. The hospital he was in, VGH in Vancouver, through unhygienic procedures infected him with C difficile. (He’s not the only person I know who received infections in the hospital: I know of two others who luckily didn’t lose their lives.) I’ve written about this before but I may not have gone into the quality of the food.

Part of the healing process for any person involves several factors. One is getting rid of the infection/disease or removing /fixing the problem. However mental health also plays a big part in healing. If a person is depressed or of a negative frame it can slow or even halt healing. Having experienced depression in the past I know that depression can even bring on problems. I ended up with elbow joint pain that no amount of therapy could fix. It went away with the anti-depressants.

That’s two factors: medical help and mental health. The third and important aspect is having a healthy body that has all the resources for mending. That means having adequate red blood cells, vitamins, nutrition, etc. I’m not a medical expert and there are many doctors that could tell you the specifics, however any deficiency can hinder health. So that third aspect of healing is having the proper nutrition to bring about a full return to health.

Malnutrition in any of a host of vitamins and nutrients can cause everything from deformity to death. It is a serious issue. My friend had several factors against him in regards to eating. They included being a celiac as well as a picky eater, and of course after C difficile took his intestines and shut down his kidneys, food just didn’t taste right.

I often showed up around his dinner time and his plate would include two stale pieces of rice bread, one incredibly thin piece of luncheon meat, maybe a pat of butter or margarine, sometimes one boiled egg, sometimes broccoli boiled to grey, and very little else. His dinners often consisted of a few chicken drumsticks (he was 6’7″) and maybe one small scoop of potatoes. I never tasted the food but his wife on one occasion did when he didn’t feel like eating and her report was that it was disgusting.

On other patients’ plates, in a healthier state, I would see meat, potatoes and gravy and very little resembling vegetables. Luncheon meat has little to no nutrient value and vegetables cooked to mush do not retain much that’s worthwhile either. One slice of luncheon meat hardly makes up a person’s daily intake of protein. Unpalatable meals are not a way to get a person’s appetite back, which is often subdued after a surgery. It is also the worst thing to do to a person whose system has been traumatized by illness or invasive techniques.

Between the food and the infection and resultant problems it’s no wonder that my friend died. If it wasn’t for his wife showing up everyday with home-cooked meals he probably would have died a lot sooner. It’s sad and criminal that someone has to bring in food to try and heal a patient. Many people stuck in the hospital don’t have that luxury of people bringing them good food or the energy to complain, not that it does much good anyways.

In BC at least, premier Gordon Campbell illegally tore up the contracts of union workers in hospitals. They lost their jobs and as the courts looked at the issue for four years, Campbell had the Fraser Health Authority hire the lowest bidders. Cheapest is not always best. Eventually it was found that Campbell’s government was in the wrong but not after it was too late. The damage was done and things like cleaning rooms contaminated with biohazardous waste or feeding people back to health were lost.

It’s too bad Campbell felt it was worth a few lives to save a few bucks and use a dishonorable way of getting rid of workers. It’s too bad the hospitals are so dirty now many people fear having to go in. I know I do and many of my friends do. It’s too bad the hospitals have forgotten one of the principles of health, a good and well-balanced diet. I would like to see a world where truly human life comes first and that even the sacrifice of a few should matter.

If you’re in an area where the hospitals are comprimising someone’s health with terrible food, complain and complain loudly. Involve the media, write your legislative members, blog, tell friends, do what you can so that another life need not be wasted because of such indifference. This goes of course, not just about food but about the cleanliness of hospitals too. It’s time to have people heal healthily and quickly and that involves good food.

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Workers Compensation: A Fallacy

There are probably many people reading this who know someone or have themselves experienced a workplace injury and WCB’s attitude toward compensating the worker. In fact, the Workers Compensation Board changed their name to WorkSafe BC, to reflect the greater scope of their reach and because they’re known for not compensating workers, or cutting compensation off arbitrarily.

This could all be hearsay but I do have direct experience. I have had to file twice in my life. The first time was for a repetitive stress injury to the soft tissue of my hand (my fingers and hand swelled) due to writing so much in quintuplicate for the movie industry (with one period that consisted of about 30 hours straight). In this first case, WCB did cover treatments but only until they thought I should be better. A known fact about the human body is that people heal at different rates and many other factors come into play. So I had to somehow manage to get better, without affording the therapy while still working.

The second time was perhaps harder to pinpoint but indicates the arbitrary decision making of case workers. I was working inside underneath three air conditioner vents. I have a couple of conditions, the major one being chronic myofascial pain syndrome (MFS). It is similar to fibromyalgia but more treatable. I can be fine for a long time and then experience a relapse brought on by certain conditions. Then I will proceed into a chronic pain cycle, which can take years to get hrough. I can function but am often in pain all the time.

Myofascial pain can be triggered by various events, some of which are: stress, cold, injury. This means, at the onset a person can try to work through the pain with exercise, which can backfire, causing more trigger point cascades. A trigger point is an area on the body that when pressed refers pain to other areas. People with myofascial pain and fibromyalgia have specific spots on their bodies which will be major trigger points. Each person may not demonstrate pain in all of them but may in most of them. A trigger point is often a hard knot. I’m not a medical expert but from what I’ve read it involves muscle tissue and fascia (the thin membrane that covers muscles [like you see on chicken]). A trigger point cascade can occur where one trigger point starts a progression of spasms and knotting that create other trigger points.

At my worst, I was trying to work out and increased the problem unknowingly. I had trigger point cascades down my arms and back, to the point where I could barely hold a fork or chew. That was an extreme episode that I don’t wish to visit again. Overall, my muscles will spasm and knot up and will forget how to release. I had ten years of chronic pain before the combination of the right muscle relaxant (many painkillers and analgesics don’t always work on this type of pain), a massage therapist who understood how to work with trigger points, and about four months of very warm weather which took me out of the chronic stage.

As I’ve mentioned, stress, injury or cold can trigger myofascial pain. Other conditions can be associated with it, such as Reynaud’s syndrome. Reynaud’s is also called red, white and blue because it will be brought on by cold and the vessels in the extremities (fingers and toes) will constrict, causing the limbs to go from red to white to blue as the blood flow is suppressed. People with this condition will experience sharp, knifelike pain and numbness. I have found, when I experience Reynauds, that the only way to bring circulation back to the extremities is to bring up my core temperature.

I have given these two examples here to wind back to workers compensation. The three air conditioner vents that I was sitting under blew a lot of cold air onto my back. I’m more susceptible to cold, but was the only person in my area who was under three vents (no one was under more than one). Because the muscles tightened up, when I moved suddenly, sitting at my desk, I threw out my back. I was a contract worker so I couldn’t really take time off but I filed a claim. I went to the chiropractor a couple of times but couldn’t afford more than that.

Recognizing that this could be another chronic pain onset, I wanted WCB to cover therapy for a couple of weeks. In all, if I had had treatment right away I could have put off the chronic pain. It would have taken probably a month at most, consisting of chiropractic to adjust my back, and massage to keep the muscles from tightening up and pulling my back out again (believe me, I live with this often, muscles pulling my ribs out while I sleep).

My case worker was on holidays so I talked to someone else first. When the case worker came back, he didn’t even talk to me but denied the claim straight out. I wrote back citing the specialist that had originally diagnosed me. I was willing to be examined, get letters from the specialists about the condition and other documentation if needed. I said that the cold of the air conditioning was the problem and the case worker wrote back and said that cold never hurt anyone. Never. Cold.

I wonder what those people feel who suffer frostbite and hypothermia and die of exposure? One of the best ways to get through myofascial pain is to apply heat, along with therapy. This case worker didn’t consult any medical expert but made his own uninformed arbitrary decision. I would have had to go to a new level to fight this, to get the therapy that was now some time from the onset of the injury. And what else causes myofascial pain? Stress. Having already taken ICBC (our provincial car insurance company) to small claims court for not covering the therapy costs of the injury that originally began my relationship with myofascial pain, I knew how stressful that process was (I won, BTW). I didn’t do it and have spent several years getting out of another bout of chronic pain. And of course all the subsequent visits to my doctor for muscle relaxants (trying to find some that work), the few visits to the therapists, and days I take off work when the pain is too much, or for doctor appointments puts more strain on our health care and system. In the long run, it costs way more than what the initial treatments would have been.

This is just one example of how workers compensation is a fallacy. I have heard far worse stories. And I have only touched the tip of the iceberg on what myofascial pain is all about. It is a more accepted condition these days, very hard to diagnose and many doctors pooh pooh it still.  Wikipedia has a very short entry. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Myofascial_pain_syndrome  And should you have a workplace injury that brings on this condition, you can expect workers compensation to not compensate, to not help you get better, and like many other injured workers, leave you out in the cold.

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