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True Story

 I saw Doctor #3 yesterday.  Three different surgeons so far … and three different opinions.  They all seem to agree my arm is really messed up (“complex,”  “complicated,”  “several areas need addressing,”) and needs surgery.  The details?  They don’t agree on.  In truth, it has confused me MORE by talking to several doctors.  I thought they’d agreed on stuff and make my decision process EASIER.

 I apologize for not posting any Fred photos lately.  I’ve been running all over Southern California for the four MRI appointments, doctor visits, etc.  I’ve also been trying to rest my camera arm because the doctor examinations leave me sore for days.

 Fred, however, is wonderful and sweet.  He’s a giant teddy bear and sometimes I lay down on the floor and cuddle him.  He LOVES it!  He, intuitively, senses the problem with my arm.  He will lightly rub his muzzle against the most painful areas, and sometimes “kiss” those spots on my arm.  Fred is a love.

 My son left last Saturday.  The Thursday prior to his leaving, my fourteen year old refrigerator broke.  I didn’t have a break in my schedule to shop for a new one until after my son left.  (It would have cost way more than the old refrigerator was worth to fix it.)  Anyway, I got a new, shiny, refrigerator early Saturday evening.  I managed to get to the grocery store by Monday so it actually has something in it now.  Yes, my life is out of control right now – how can you tell?

•  I’ve been taking my Hobonichi with me as I sit in waiting rooms.  I’ve done some small sketches.  In the evenings, if I have time, I pull out my watercolor paints and paint the sketches.  I was gifted a few half pans of Daniel Smith watercolor paints and they’re stunning.  I’m not anything close to an artist, and I don’t intend to buy a bunch of artist grade paints.  But??  They’re visually delicious paints and I can see why people love them.  Gorgeous!

•  How does a person pack for a trip that includes hot beaches, glaciers, rain forest, snow, and tropical boating adventures?  I need to begin thinking about that sometime soon.  Oh yeah, I also need to pack a carry-on bag to sustain me during a fourteen hour flight each way.  Yikes!

•  I was saddened to hear of David Bowie’s death.  His music has always been there ... somewhere.  I was taken by surprise by my own sense of sadness.  I guess I associate his music with high school parties/my youth/or some other sort of mumbo jumbo?  Anyway, the world lost a big talent and that’s always a sad thing.

•  I was recently surprised with second row tickets to a Ducks hockey game.  It was lots of fun to sit so close!  It was a great game.  I think hockey is always exciting … lots of action!

•  In approximately one hour, I read The CrossRoads of Should and Must by Elle Luna.  It was a quick, easy, inspiring, read.  It’s a book I would definitely recommend to creatives … or, really, anyone who feels passionate about anything in life.  I know it’s a book I’ll pick up and reread now and then.

elle

Fred and I will work on getting a few photos of him soon for you.

They might just be iPhone photos, but I’m sure he’ll still smile for the camera!

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Update

I apologize in advance for boring you with arm-saga posts.

But, I can’t really write a post like I did last Friday without providing an update afterwards.

Also, I feel like there are some things I need to say.

First of all, I want to thank you for support as I go through all of this.

Moral support DOES help – way more than you may realize.

Second, I want to make it clear how much I appreciate every single doctor, and health care provider, who has helped me in the last nine years.

Were some mistakes made along the way?

Yes.

Were they intentional mistakes?

No.

I feel very fortunate to have had medical care from people who genuinely care about me.

Third, there’s a lot of really good, positive, exciting, things going on in my life.

MRIs and doctor’s appointments, and physical therapy, have been taking up a LOT of my time.

But, medical stuff isn’t ALL of my life.

I’ll be updating you on my arm, but I will continue to share a lot of other things with you too.

And now, here’s the arm update:

•  I met with an orthopedic arm trauma specialist last Friday.  (And, one of his partner doctors also.)

•  Trauma Doc is a Nikon guy and I’m a Canon Girl.  Can you believe it?

•  I’m now in an arm brace due to the tear in my elbow tendon.  He also prescribed a topical pain medication to help me get through my New Zealand trip.  I have plenty of narcotics already, if I need them.  I try not to take them except when I’m ready to lose it from pain.  I’m waiting to see if my insurance will pay for the topical medication because, apparently, it costs $1,900!  (I almost died when I heard how expensive it is!)  The tear in my elbow tendon isn’t a complete tear (rupture), but it’s not a small tear either.  It’s classified as a “moderate” tear.  Did I mention it hurts?  Interestingly enough, the elbow tear does not mean definite elbow surgery.  I’m told it’s a “maybe” surgery.  My elbow has been immobilized until I return from New Zealand.  (My hand and shoulder are NOT immobilized.)

•  Trauma Doc realizes the elbow tear is merely a symptom of The Bigger Problem which is my post-car-accident-arm.  He wants to do surgery on me when I return from New Zealand.  (He understands I’m a professional photographer and I’m committed to the New Zealand trip.)  The surgery he wants to do would be A Pretty Big Deal and would require an overnight stay in a hospital.  (Most orthopedic arm surgeries are done on an out-patient basis and don’t require hospitalization.)

•  If I have surgery, it will be sometime in March.  I haven’t booked it, yet.

•  I’m meeting with another, highly thought of, arm doc tomorrow for another opinion.  I’m getting LOTS of opinions … even though it means an annoying amount of time at doctor’s offices.  I hate going to see doctors – more than you can even imagine.  But, I feel like the biggest mistake I’ve made along the way is accepting whatever a doc tells me is the right thing to do.  So far, I’ve had three doctors tell me I need another surgery.  I realize I probably do.  (They don’t all agree about the details/how to go about it.)

It certainly isn’t going to hurt to get one more opinion, is it?

•  If I go ahead with surgery, it will probably be with Trauma Doc.  He has the most experience with the type of surgery I need.  He’s used to seeing messy torn-up arm parts – arms that have internally exploded by various types of impact.  I’ve seen, on my MRI photos, important parts of my arm that are shredded.  Of course, no one knows exactly what any surgery will entail until they get inside my arm.  An MRI only shows so much ….   I will say, Trauma Doc is very stern and scary.  I’ve met a lot of doctors and he’s definitely the scariest I’ve ever met.  He’s not a warm and fuzzy guy.  On the other hand, his peers tell me he’s the best arm doctor they’ve ever met.  So, there’s THAT ….

•  I admit, I’ve been on an emotional roller coaster.  I vacillate a zillion times per day as to whether or not I can bear to go through another surgery.  “OK, I’m going to schedule it,” I tell a relieved Paul Newman.  Ten minutes later, I think, “I can’t do it … I’m not going to do it!”  If this were my arm’s first/only surgery I wouldn’t be so torn.  (Ha ha … TORN – get it?)  But, if I do this it will be Surgery #10.

Surgery #10 … I have a hard time wrapping my brain around that.

And, if I can’t, how can anyone else understand what the very thought of it does to me?

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Why Me?

I’m in Los Angeles most of today ….

I’ve been trying to keep a positive outlook since I re-injured my bum arm in mid-November.

I think I ran out of “positive” yesterday, though.

I was really down in the dumps after my morning PT session with Paul Newman.

He’s frustrated because he’s watching my arm disintegrate in front of him.

I see his frustration and absorb it as my own.

I know he’s put a lot of heart and soul into helping me.

I’m allowing myself a one day pity party and then I need to get over it.

If you guys learn nothing else from me, please learn this ….

YOU HAVE TO BE YOUR OWN HEALTHCARE ADVOCATE.

I’ve spent nine and a half years in a nightmare.

A lot of my nightmare could have been avoided if I’d known more about doctors, physical therapy, insurance, and the need to stick up for what I believe.

I’ve made so many mistakes along the way because I didn’t know better.

Will I make more mistakes?

Probably.

But, I’m trying my best to apply what I’ve learned.

My “normal” orthopedic surgeon weighed in on my arm in November.

He didn’t think anything was wrong with my arm other than the usual stuff that is always wrong with my arm.

I cried after I left his office because I was in pain and I knew something “new” was wrong.

Today, I meet with a surgeon up in Los Angeles who specializes in orthopedic arm injuries which are the result of trauma.

It will be my second time meeting with him – I’m taking him my two recent MRIs to look at.

In my first visit with him, he immediately identified a problem my normal doctor had never seen.

A third orthopedic surgeon, a family friend, ordered and read my last two (3T) MRIs.

(Actually, I told him to order the elbow MRI because all the doctors I had seen at that time seemed to think there was nothing wrong with my elbow.  “It hurts because of your shoulder,” was the common thought.  Family Friend Doctor ordered the MRIs I asked for because he believed me when I said “something is wrong and I really need your help.”)

[Family Friend Doctor specializes primarily in leg injuries which is why I’ve never gone to see him.]

It was from the elbow MRI I insisted on, I found out I have a torn tendon in my elbow.

I’m stressed about all of this because:

  1. Having painful injuries is stressful no matter what.  It’s been eight weeks (!!) since I “re-injured” my arm.  Eight weeks with almost zero function and tons of pain.
  2. I leave for New Zealand relatively soon and I want to be able to enjoy myself.
  3. I have to be able to shoot while I’m in New Zealand.
  4. I know there’s a good possibility I will need surgery on both my elbow AND shoulder.  (Surgeries #10 and #11!)  I want to cry just thinking about it.
  5. I don’t want to have surgery before New Zealand.  I can’t imagine having post surgical pain while traveling!
  6. I don’t know if I can handle the current pain if I don’t have surgery until AFTER New Zealand.

In the meantime,

What are my options – and what are the recovery times to go with them?

What’s fixable and what’s not?

In what year will it become possible to remove my arm and give me a prosthetic, bionic, arm?

These are the type of things I’ll be discussing with doctors as I try to plan the next steps for my life.

It never hurts to get a lot of educated opinions.

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My Not-Normal Life

Woo hoo – El Nino weather patterns have arrived as predicted.

I live in a canyon in the foothills of a mountain.

Clouds get “stuck” here and we get a lot more rain than other areas of Orange County.

Yesterday, my neighborhood was on flash flood warnings all day.

Buckets and buckets of rain fell.

Fred LOVED the rain.

Fred even helped “the pool guy” clean the pool in the middle of the downpour.

I admit, I enjoyed having a rainy day.

(After all, we haven’t had rain for three or four years!)

But, one day of rain is probably enough.

Where’s my sunshine?

I drove to Newport Beach yesterday to pick up MRI reports.

It wasn’t raining there … even though it was POURING by “my” mountain.

I don’t fully understand what the MRI reports say, but this much of it I do understand:

•  I have a tear in a tendon in my elbow.  (THAT’S WHY IT HURTS!!)

•  I have a messed up shoulder.  (Duh!!)

I think the elbow tendon tear is what has put me over the edge these last several weeks.

If my arm worked correctly, I most likely wouldn’t have torn my elbow tendon.

But, my elbow was trying to do the job of my shoulder and couldn’t withstand the stress/trauma.

So now my elbow is messed up also.

I asked Google if my elbow is fixable and I got answers.

Google thinks my elbow needs surgery.

But, Google isn’t always right.

I’ll ask a real live doctor (or three) for an opinion also – as soon as I get a chance.

(My entire life seems to be filled with MRIs, doctors, physical therapy, etc. lately!)

Drastically changing subjects,

The local coyotes have become SUPER aggressive in recent months.

Fred is not having it.

Fred “guards” my backyard fiercely each night.

Coyotes have been, literally, a few inches away from Fred.

Two nights ago I heard Fred growl the most ferocious growl I’ve ever heard a dog make.

There was a coyote maybe five inches away (on the other side of my wrought iron fence) howling at Fred.

Fred barked and growled super-ferociously again.

Fred has a very deep, low, voice.

The coyote went away.

Fred always seems to be the sweetest, most gentle, giant.

I didn’t think Fred even had it in him to act like such a tough guy.

But honestly, if I heard a dog growl at me the way Fred growled at that coyote?

I’d be terrified.

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Back to Reality

Life returns to “normal” today … if normal exists, that is.

I hope everyone had a nice holiday season.

I enjoyed myself, although the holidays are pretty exhausting.

I’m very excited for 2016 ….

Or, perhaps, just very grateful 2015 is over.

Here are a few updates regarding what’s happening with my life:

•  In December, I had a total of four MRIs on my arm.  I’m still waiting to hear the results.  As it turns out, the first MRI on my shoulder indicated a possibly fixable problem but the full extent of the problem could not be seen.  The second MRI was of my entire arm and didn’t have enough detail.  The third MRI was done with a stronger type of MRI called a Tesla III MRI – it took a look at the previously identified problem area of my shoulder.  The fourth MRI was also a Tesla III and it focused in on a suspicious area of my elbow.  This has been a bit of a “group think” project with several doctors weighing in.  I’m determined to make pain/function improvements this year and I’m open to getting lots of varying opinions to reach that end.  I haven’t yet gotten the results of the last two MRIs.  My arm has pretty much been completely useless (and extremely painful) since mid-November.

•  My daughter had left, but came back to visit for a few more days.  Now, she and my oldest son are gone, but my youngest son will be home for one more week.  We have a lot of errands, etc., to do prior to his departure.  It will be a busy week.  Thankfully, he’s recovered from strep throat and is healthy again.  (Also, no one else in the family caught his strep – hallelujah!)

•  Fred had a very Merry Christmas.  He was spoiled rotten with tons of attention, play time, treats, toys, etc.  Fred is very LOVED.  I think he’ll pout for days when my son leaves.  And yes, Newfies DO pout.  They’re extremely expressive animals.

Fred NYDay © Suzanne Haggerty 2016 W

What stick?  Why do you think I’m chewing on a stick? – Fred

•  My primary focus these next few weeks will be preparing for my trip to New Zealand.  I haven’t allowed myself to even think about it until now.  I have so much to do … reading, research, planning!  I’m SO EXCITED!!  It’s going to be a long trip, but I know I’ll only be able to get to about half the locations within New Zealand I’d like to see.  Why can’t I win the lottery and have millions of dollars (and tons of time!) to travel?

•  I had put away almost all of my art supplies for the holiday season.  I knew I wouldn’t have time for art play.  I’m dying to pull them out and make some messes with gesso and paint again.  I’ve been doing just a little watercolor painting the last few weeks.  I’m really enjoying it even though I suck as a painter.  Maybe I’ll take a class in the spring once I return from New Zealand.

•  I’ve set up a new planner/calendar for 2016.  I’m sure I’ll be fine tuning it as I use it this year.  But, I hope it will help me keep on top of the many areas of life I’m constantly juggling.  There’s always so much to do and not quite enough hours in each day.

•  I can’t wait to share with you my Christmas present to myself … but it hasn’t arrived yet.  I ordered a handmade item in anticipation of my New Zealand trip.  I knew it might not arrive until after Christmas.  And …?  I’m still waiting.  I did get a notification that it “should” ship this next week.  In the meantime, it’s a secret.  Here’s a hint:  I’m a nerd so it’s probably something only I would find exciting?

•  I’ve been trying to rest my arm entirely in anticipation of New Zealand.  That means I’ve barely been using my camera.  It’s not what I want, of course.  But, until the doctors figure out what’s going on with my arm I have to do my best to keep the pain under control.  I’ll be shooting a ton in New Zealand … one armed and regardless of pain.  I guess you could say I’m “saving” my arm up for that.

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December 28th

Whew!

Christmas 2015 is over.

Fred-Santa © 2015 Suzanne Haggerty W

Fred The Newf with his Christmas present.

It was the most disorganized Christmas ever, but all’s well that ends well – right?

I think, after a tough several months, my entire family was just happy to be together.

Bloody Mary © 2015 Suzanne Haggerty W

Bloody Mary made by my oldest son.  (Shrimp, bacon, olives, tomato, lime, celery.)

It isn’t something you think about usually,

But, sometimes going through tough times really strengthens family bonds.

I suppose that’s the big lesson my family can take away from 2015.

We’ve been there for each other through some pretty bad sh*t this year.

I’m looking forward to beginning a new year.

I don’t, in general, make resolutions.

I do, however, reassess at the end of each year.

I think about plans and goals for the upcoming year.

I strategize about how to get the most out of the next twelve months.

Last year, I reverted to using an old fashioned planner (in a three ring binder!) instead of relying on my digital calendar/phone.

(I also began listening to vinyl albums again and embracing other old/analogue joys I’d forsaken.)

Yesterday, I spent some time reorganizing my planner for 2016.

I found it to be a bit therapeutic … looking ahead at an entire year on paper.

I have a few more days until 2016 begins.

Days to think, to plan, to set goals ….

Of course, at the same time, I have to deal with NOW.

Two of my three kids have departed ….

But, the one who remains is recovering from strep throat.

He’s over the worst (and no longer contagious!), but I’m still taking care of him.

(As an example, I’m making homemade soup for him today.)

I’ve got a few ideas already for 2016, but I haven’t quite finalized all my goals.

I do know, getting my arm MUCH IMPROVED is number one on my list for 2016.

Are you ready for a new year?

Or was 2015 so amazing you don’t want to see it go?

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December 22nd

I think this will probably be my only post this week.

I wanted to wish you all a Merry Christmas, or happy whatever holiday you happen to celebrate.

My family is here which makes me very happy.

My kids helped get a Christmas tree on Saturday.

Picking a tree out this late had some disadvantages.

Our tree has no top.

(On a positive note, it was discounted $30 because it was a Pointless Tree.)

On Sunday night we discovered our usual angel tree topper couldn’t hide the topless-ness of the tree.

We improvised with a Santa Fairy/Elf thingy ….

Tree2015 © 2015 Suzanne Haggerty W

A big, fat, Pointless Tree.

It makes me laugh … a tree to match the kind of year 2015 has turned out to be.

As one of my kids said, we are “limping to the finish line” of 2015.

2015 sure started out as a great year, but the last six months have been a familial mess.

(There’s a better way to describe it, but I’m trying to keep my language clean!)

For now, I’m going to just focus on having my family home.

They’re going to take turns helping me wrap presents since my arm is exceptionally bad this year.

Everyone has been “group cooking,” and we’re making do with circumstances the way they are.

FR © 2015 Suzanne Haggerty W

I’d like some bacon!!

Fred is keeping everyone entertained … he’s such a clown.

Only the most critical Christmas traditions are being kept this year ….

Simplifying is the motto for Christmas 2015.

I’ll be having lots of visitors in and out of the house this week.

I’m expecting pure holiday chaos going forward these next few days.

I hope the next few days are merry and bright for YOU!

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Muddling Through December

Hello, hello!

I’ve been inconsistent with posts and I imagine I will continue to be inconsistent throughout  the holidays.

I still don’t have a Christmas tree, but I think I’ve resigned myself to having the most disorganized Christmas ever.

(Hey, it isn’t every year a person develops an unexplainable hole in their arm accompanied by a heaping dose of pain.)

On a positive note, family members begin arriving at my house this Friday.

I was stressed about not having every/anything ready for them.

Now, I realize Christmas will *have to be* a group effort.

Extra hands will provide some much needed help.

I’ve also come to the realization, I need to break down and hire some help in 2016.

Maybe a part-time person to help out with all the things I find so difficult to do with just my left hand?

While I’ve been stressing about all the Christmas-related things I need to do ….

Fred Resting © 2015 Suzanne Haggerty WW

Fred relaxes on his cot.  (iPhone)

Fred is keeping holiday stress at bay.

Fred’s only stress, ever, is if I leave him.

It’s his job to take care of me and he gets very stressed if/when he can’t be with me to do just that.

In other news, I was recently given something called the DASH test.

I had never heard of it before, but it’s a disability test.

I flunked.

The results said my arm is “severely” disabled.

It made me feel bad ….

There’s nothing like flunking a test to make a person feel like a failure.

But, I’ve since been informed failing the DASH test might actually help me get long-term care without constantly having to fight for it?

(You know … with medical insurance companies!)

So, I guess there are positives even when things aren’t great.

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December 15th

I’m back in Orange County after a whirlwind three days in the L.A. area.

It was beautiful in L.A. …. crystal clear, snow capped mountains in the distance, etc.

The wonderful people at The Huntley Hotel rolled out the red carpet for me once again.

Huntley TV © 2015 Suzanne Haggerty W

The TV in my room welcomed me!

I LOVE the Huntley.

They’ve mastered small customer service gestures which add up to a lovely stay.

I was very busy my entire time in L.A., so I didn’t knock out any gift shopping.

I did take a couple hours to visit LACMA (Los Angeles County Museum of Art), though.

I’m a member at LACMA so I get notified about various special exhibits and events.

Right now, and through the month of March, LACMA has a special exhibit on Frank Gehry.

I love photographing Frank Gehry’s architecture, but I’ve never taken the time to learn many details about the man himself.

I really enjoyed the exhibit.  I was so glad I made the time to go see it.

I’m fascinated by creative people because creative people think DIFFERENTLY.

It’s really interesting to hear the story behind the person.

And, of course, I did manage to take in ONE sunset while I was there.

I took a walk along the bluffs Saturday evening.


Beautiful sunset in Santa Monica!

I have family arriving in three days.

I still don’t have a Christmas tree and I haven’t decorated or bought most of the gifts I need to.

I have one free day this week …

How much can a crazed, one-armed, woman get done in a 24 hour period?

I guess I’ll find out SOON!

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Random Thoughts ….

I thought I’d share some random today.

While the rest of the world is getting their sh*t together for the holidays, I’m not.

But, I do have thoughts like these running through my head:

•  Maybe Christmas won’t come this year since I’m not ready for it.  Hmm … that reminds me of The Grinch story.  CHRISTMAS CAME ANYWAY.

•  I keep waiting for my arm to feel better before I do all those Christmas things … and it just isn’t happening.  (Although, Paul Newman tells me the swelling is going down so I’m sure I’ll be feeling better soon?)

•  Why is my Super Power the ability to read people?  I can read people in a scary, amazing, way.  And, I say it’s scary because I don’t always want to know the things I know about people.  And no, I’m not saying I can read people’s MINDS, but I can read people.  Who they are, what they’re about, their strengths, their weaknesses, their integrity, their authenticity, their sincerity …..  And, often, I can do this within a millisecond of meeting someone.  I can’t think of a time when I’ve been wrong with my “intuition.”  Sometimes, I wish I WAS wrong.

•  Do YOU have a Super Power?  And if so, what is it?

•  2015 has been a difficult year for my family.  Well, I guess I should say the last six months have been very difficult.  There’s been a lot of *stuff* going on with various family members.  I’m more than ready for 2016.

•  I’ll be in various L.A. locations over the next several days.  (I’ll probably be on L.A. freeways most of those hours?)  I’m not sure if I’ll have an opportunity to write a post while I’m away from home.

•  I’ve fallen in love with a band called Pacific Air.  I listen to them a lot while I’m editing photos.  It’s nice background music.  I can think, I can concentrate on my work, and I can listen at the same time.  (I have a playlist titled “Editing.”)

•  Paul Newman informed me yesterday I did not “rip my fat” to create the hole in my arm.  I’ve been telling everyone I ripped my fat because it does sound like a very unique injury, doesn’t it?  Apparently, ripping your fat is not a medical term.  Hmmph!

•  I’ve always loved the color red.  It *might* even be my favorite color, although I hate to play favorites in case the other colors get their feelings hurt.  Anyway, I fell in love with a photo of this red bag:

dbBag

Actually, I fell in love with a different red bag.  But, the first red bag didn’t have a shoulder strap.  I can’t carry most purses so they HAVE TO have a long strap.  I started searching for a bag somewhat similar to the first, but with an optional long strap and I found the one pictured above.  It wasn’t available in real life yet, so I “preordered” it.  I had no idea when it might actually BE available, but yesterday I got a shipping notification.    I can’t wait to see it in person.  If it’s too heavy, or I don’t like it in real life, I’ll return it.  But?  I’m hoping it works.  I like the fact it has several pockets.  And yes, I do have a little bit of a handbag addiction.  It’s okay, because I never buy clothes.  Right???

•  I bought Fred a stuffed reindeer.  He carries it everywhere with him.  It’s adorable.  I’ll try to get a photo of Fred with his reindeer soon.  (I haven’t been taking photos because I’m trying to let my arm heal.)

I hope you have a happy weekend!