Saturday, November 20, 2010


I am very, very, quite surprisingly tired. I had not expected this. (Yes, yes, I know, recovering from surgery, taking time to heal, body needs rest etcetera take it as read. But still. I am surprised.) Seems to me that if you can run three miles in thirty minutes and squat a hundred pounds sixty times in a row, you ought to get off a little easier after a palatectomy.

Luckily, our patients were relatively easy. Only one fight broke out between a patient and his family (why is it that the patients who shout always end up in semi-private rooms?), and that was easily settled. He had had a pretty massive carotid occlusion, so he wasn't in top form.

I really wish somebody had warned me about how hard it would be to stretch my jaw at work. I'm used to stretching about every two hours with the bunch of tongue depressors, and for two days I got exactly one round of stretching in. The end result is a major dimunition in my jaw's range of motion; I can *almost* get two fingers in between my front teeth after stretching.

However--and this is a good reason to stay in health care if you're there already--one of the speech/language pathologists at work has an old Therabite she's not using, and has offered to dig it out of her desk for me. Yes, please: saving $398 on a device I can use at work is a good, good deal right now.

Speaking of saving money, I did mention that my pink plastic prosthetic palates are not considered essential medical equipment, right? Yeah. Not covered by insurance. Which blows my freaking mind. As Woolywoman said back when I was having Major Body-Image Issues with the obturator, it's not pretty to look at, but what it does is beautiful. What in hell do you do if you don't have insurance? Seriously: without an obturator, my speech is completely unintelligible. What would some poor sot over at County General do? Hope for funding and pray that the first obturator revision was good enough?

In nursing news, I have additional advice besides "don't let a general surgeon evacuate your subdural hematoma": Don't let just anybody intubate you. And, if you do, be sure your family knows to tell the intensivist handling your care that you've been on benzodiazapenes for thirty some-odd years, so that those drugs actually get administered and you don't have a huge seizure from discontinuation. Otherwise, you'll end up with me, having stroked out your left PCA, and it'll take you a long time to be well enough to head home.

Honestly: a five-foot tall woman in her sixties is not the same, anatomically speaking, as a six-five guy in his thirties. You cannot use the same airway for the former as you'd use for the latter. Sheesh. Torn trachea? No fun.

And, in Give Me All Your Money, All Your Hugs And Kisses Too News, readers of this blog have raised two hundred and seventy-five dollars for the Oral Cancer Foundation.

Let me tell you a little about OCF in hopes of getting you to pony up a little cash:

The Oral Cancer Foundation is *the* place to go if you've been diagnosed with an oral cancer of any type. No matter how rare your cancer is, you'll find somebody on the forums there who's dealt with it, or an article in their library on it.

OCF was founded by *one* guy. His name is Brian Hill, and he survived the metastatic tonsil cancer that hit him in 1997. He posts on the forums, people, and works every day to keep OCF relevant as a source for folks with oral cancers. The whole reason for OCF's being is that Mr. Hill couldn't find jack freakin' squat out there in terms of information when he was diagnosed.

Here's why it's important--at least to me--that you donate:

I got an oral cancer for which there are no risk factors. That makes me unusual: the majority of people who get oral cancers have at least one risk factors, be it smoking or drinking or exposure to HPV strain 16. Regardless of how you end up with it, though, oral cancer is a huge, life-changing deal.

I had a baby cancer. Mine was one of the (only!) 45% of oral cancers that was found prior to metastasis to other areas. Mine was easily resected, and I didn't require radiation as an adjunct therapy. Even with those facts, my life has changed forever: I have no soft palate and I'll have to deal with trismus for the rest of my life.

Imagine what it must be like for somebody who's got to have both an oral surgery and a neck dissection, followed by radiation and a feeding tube and so forth.

Oral cancer is skewing younger and younger every year, in part because of the near-ubiquity of HPV-16 in the adult population. Imagine, then, the neck dissection and the tongue removal in a thirty-year-old.

I have $275 in a separate account earmarked for OCF. My goal is to hit $400 before the end of the year, so that I can buy a Therabite and donate it to somebody who needs it on the OCF Forums. If that happens, I'll start hitting you guys up for money every six months: two Therabites a year to people with surgery- and radiation-related trismus would be HUGE in terms of quality of life.

Donating is your own business. I promise not to turn this blog into a pledge-drive, a la NPR. If you've got five extra bucks and you want to donate it to something, consider sending it here. PayPal charges overhead to process donations, but I'm eating that cost myself. This is that important to me.

So donate, if you can and if you want to. This blog has been mostly about my mouth for the last two months, and I'm putting my money there now.

Edited to Add: Thank you, thank you, thank you! These last couple of months have shown me that I have the best readers and commenters on the Innterwebz. Y'all rock. (BTW, I'm not keeping track of who's donating, so don't feel guilty if you can't come up with the scratch. This is entirely voluntary, dudes; there are plenty of other worthy causes out there.)


Crazed Nitwit said...

First off, insurance companies suck. Not essential? BROTHER!

Thanks for the intubation advice. I may need that some day.

I don't understand families and their fights and/or complete denial. Wake up families!!!! I am dealing with several at this time who are giving me headaches.

WOOHOO for the OT!

Lynda Halliger Otvos (Lynda M O) said...

A little of a little has been donated to the next Therabite.

As to recovering slowly-me, too, Jo. I had a bout of colitis/gastritis that landed me on the patient side of the deal over the weekend last month at our local hospital. This damnably slow recovery bothers me too. Older, slower, less patient for my strength to return. Cheers!

CQ said...

I did donate (thanks for the reminder) but I got a surprise name on the receipt, initials MW. Is that right?

Jo said...

CQ: Yep, that's right.

Anonymous said...

You might want to add Google Checkout as an alternative to Paypal, for anybody unable/unwilling to use Paypal.

Allison said...

Can you really squat 100 pounds 60 times in a row? That's pretty dang impressive!

Jenn said...

Insurance companies don't think being able to talk or eat decently are worth it? Crazy!

Good to read you are surviving work! Remember to eat dessert first.

Celeste said...

Good GOD, insurance companies pay for prosthetic arms, legs, and breasts every damn day. HOW can they not cover a palate? It's not like you can run down to CVS and just find something in the toothpaste aisle that'll pretty much do cover up that hole. Do they really think you should just make one out of Sea Bond and Silly Putty?

Tell me more about a Therabite. I hope it isn't anything like Vegemite.

Anonymous said...

Can't that be appealed with insurance?

Or is the deal that they'll pay for one, but not multiple...

Eileen said...

Re your comment on tiredness: some years ago a group of Marines (in the UK) did a fitness assessment on Friday afternoon and then spent the weekend on bedrest in the local hospital. Just bedrest - no procedures, just feet up for 48 hours in a hospital environment. On the Monday they again did the fitness assessment and continued to be monitored until they achieved the same level as pre-bedrest. Took them 6 weeks.

Oral protheses not "essential" eh? Sounds like a need for "let me take you by the hand and come with me".

Good to hear you are doing so well though.

Molly said...

Jeeeeeezus, you can get tonsil cancer?!

Ffffuuuuuuu. NOTHING IS SAFE.