Friday, April 26, 2013

GERD, or better known as, "Oh, my God, just let me die already!"

I wrote and posted the following six months before I ended up having open heart surgery.  If you are experiencing "heartburn" or any kind of chest pain, see your doctor right away and have your heart checked thoroughly.  I was misdiagnosed with GERD when my problem was actually coronary artery disease. When you are diabetic, age doesn't matter!  I was only 34 when I had heart surgery!

I have a high pain tolerance; as a child I used to get ear infections and not even realize I had one until my eardrum burst (or at least was on the verge of exploding).  I suppose most of the time it is a good thing, being a Type I diabetic and having to take three injections a day and prick my finger several times a day; yeah, it's a good thing to have a tolerance for pain.  Really, the injections and prickings aren't painful in the slightest.  A better example of my tolerance for pain would be the broken finger, tail bone, and many other injuries I have had over the years that I didn't really find very painful.  A bad thing about having a high pain tolerance is the annoyance I feel toward people that have a low tolerance for pain; I just can't understand why they are being such babies.  It's just a broken bone, gosh...

Well, I can understand now what people mean by "Oh, my God! Just let me die already!"  It all started about a year ago, maybe earlier.  The symptoms began infrequently, a couple times a month with a mild pain in the center of my chest.  Being a diabetic with no health insurance (I haven't seen a doctor in about 7 years), I worried it might be heart failure.  I just buried it in the back of my mind with all the other things I was in denial about.  Quickly, but just gradually enough, it became more frequent and severe.  The pain in the center of my chest kicked in whenever I tried to do anything active, or bent over, or lay down, or ate a big meal.  The pain spread to my arms, I got weak and tired and just had to sit down, sometimes the pain even penetrated through to my back!

It was when the pain was there everyday, mild pain all day with two or three severe flareups a day, that I finally researched the symptoms.  According to the Internet (I read up on several sites) it was either heart failure or Esophagitis (AKA GERD).  Gastro Esophageal Reflux Disease, my symptoms fit perfectly.  The sphincter at the end of the esophagus that opens into the stomach isn't working properly and acid is backing up into the esophagus causing painful and damaging heartburn.  So, what can I do about it without health insurance?  I did everything the Internet told me to; I cut out all the foods and stuff that cause heartburn: Onions, grease, fat, tomatoes, chocolate, caffeine, carbs, peppers, other spicy things, citrus fruits, tobacco, alcohol, etc.  I tried to lose weight and succeeded to a small degree but it is hard to lose weight when you can't do any physical activity without severe pain.  I ate TUMS like they were candy and tried Prevacid but it didn't help in the slightest.  I ate black licorice and drank aloe vera juice, and ate foods that help relieve or prevent heartburn, with very limited results.  I finally found a treatment that worked but it has its own down sides, apple cider vinegar.  I have no idea how or why it works but it is the only thing that brings relief almost instantly and lasts for hours.  I take a shot glass and fill it half way with apple cider vinegar and half with water and shoot it down in one gulp.  After gaging for a moment I drink three shots of water to wash the taste out of my mouth.  Moments later I feel much better, but not completely pain free...

Until recently the pain only kicked in when I tried to be active or ate too much or the wrong things.  Then the day came when the pain woke me up early in the morning.  This was the first time this had happened, heartburn on an empty stomach and while I was already asleep?  On top of the strange timing, it was the most severe pain I had ever had; severe pain in the center of my chest, nauseating, dizzying, pain down my arms and across my collar bones, leg weakening pain, and even a bit of shortness of breath.  I thought for sure I was having a heart attack!

After several hours in the emergency room, an EKG, chest x-ray, blood work, a nitro patch, and some other tests and observations, I left with the diagnosis of esophagitis and hypertension.  They prescribed me Omeprazole and gave me instructions on how to control the heartburn (all the same stuff I've already been doing).  So now I am relieved that my heart is healthy* but discouraged that I may never be rid of this constant and debilitating pain.

Will I forever be frightened to walk?  Frightened of bending over?  Loathing of the one thing I used to love almost more than anything, going to bed, because laying down is so very frightening now?  Scared to eat because all eating does is cause me horrific pain?  Will I ever be able to live, walk, clean my house, exercise, again?

*I was misdiagnosed in the ER.  This diagnosis happened only six months before I ended up having open heart surgery.  Be careful, have your symptoms checked by your primary doctor.  Insist on ALL the tests.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Legacy, Not the Car

Do you ever wonder what kind of legacy you are going to leave?  I think about it probably more often than I should.  I want to be remembered fondly by my friends and family.  I want to have made some kind of positive contribution to the generations that follow me.  I'm not saying I want to leave a ton of money or be posthumously famous; I don't need people to remember me as the person, I just want to have made a positive, worthwhile and lasting impact. Whether it is credited to me or not doesn't matter.

I suppose I think on my legacy so much because I feel that, to date, I have not done anything or own anything worth while.  But how do you make the future better? How do you make a world changing impact?  Start small and hope it grows? Or go big so it can't be ignored?  I suppose I am the little type, make a change starting with me, my friends, and family.  All I can do is pass on what I've learned just by living. So,what would I say if I were to write a legacy for future generations to read?:

Do what makes you happy.  There will always be those who try to force you to live up to their standards, to do their bidding, and to live according to their desires.  Do not ignore them, for many of them have learning and experience more than your own and are worth your consideration and respect, but do not abide by them if it is not your will, your desire, and your decision.  Living by other peoples standards will only cause you heartache. 

Prove your love.  Saying the words is only the beginning, and do not say them unless you mean them.  Beyond voicing the words, always live up to your word, prove it in your actions.  If you love someone, prove it to them daily; tell them you love them, give them a hug, give them your full attention when interacting with them.  Do kind things, especially when they aren't required or expected of you.  Friends and family are the most important things in life, without them you are little more than nothing.

Stay positive. Life is hard.  Life is cruel.  It is easy to turn pessimistic.  Wake up every morning thinking positive and no matter what life throws at you, stay positive.  When we worry, or get stressed, or angry, life becomes immensely more difficult and dark.  It is good to let yourself scream and cry once in awhile, but do not ever let yourself stay down too long.  Get up, keep going, and do your best.  And always try to see the bright side...or at least the light at the far end.

Have fun.  Life is hard work.  Life is a burden.  Throw off the tie and 'hose and have a little fun.  Work hard but don't forget to play hard, as well.  Laugh, love, have plenty of orgasms, sing, and dance. When you are too old to do the wild things you will wish you had done them more.

Thank those who have been there for you. Don't be too proud to accept help because not many people are willing to offer it.  Be willing to help, there aren't many people who are.  Your true friends are those who will come to your aid no matter what the cost to them.  Accept their kindness because you need it but always recognize their sacrifice, be grateful, and return the favor.

Don't be naive.  Don't take anything at face value.  Many things are not what they seem.  Many people have ulterior motives.  Do your research and don't come to a final conclusion until you are educated on all sides of the matter.  Just because your family or friends are one religion or political affiliation doesn't mean you have to be.  Ask questions, be skeptical, but don't be naive, nor paranoid.

Don't take anything for granted. Everything is worth something whether it be monetary worth, educational worth, emotional worth; everything has some kind of worth. Pay attention to everyone and everything.  You can learn a lot if you just keep your eyes and ears open.

And finally, don't worry.  I can not stress how hard life is.  It is hard by every definition of the word. And because life is hard, I can not stress enough the importance of friends and family.  You need each other to get through life, you need the help, the support, the reassurance, and the joy, love, happiness, and fulfillment they bring.  Life is hard, but don't stress it, don't worry, your friends and family have your back.

Maybe I haven't learned that much, yet.  I hope by time I die I will have learned and experienced enough to leave something worth while to future generations.