Thursday, September 18, 2014

The simple gesture that transformed my crappy day

I couldn't wait to get the injection.

I've had a frozen shoulder for several months. It's gotten to the point where it is hurting 24/7. I wake up in the middle of the night, in pain, and cannot find a comfortable sleep position. Advil is my new BFF. Anti-inflammatory meds haven't helped. I've tried chiropractic, acupuncture and lots of physical therapy. I got three sessions of Rolfing, a deep-tissue massage technique. The practitioner said that I was "pain/discomfort adverse," leaving me to wonder who isn't (aside from the people who frequent those chat rooms and clubs). Mostly, I was adverse to paying $180 bucks a session for something that didn't work for me.

I decided to go back to the orthopedist. A staffer got me onto the schedule asap. Thanks to Max, I have mastered the art of worming my way into appointments, and the secret is to beg shamelessly and throw in a mention that you are not able to adequately care for your children with your frozen shoulder. Which is true. I can no longer help Max down the stairs or get him into the car. When Sabrina wants to sit in a chair and cuddle with me, it hurts to hold her. This whole living-in-pain thing isn't working for me. Being that I am pain/discomfort adverse.

My appointment was at 9:00 a.m. I arrived breathlessly at 9:10, apologizing for being late because of a train delay. Actually, it was not a problem. Because the doctor wasn't even going to be there until 9:30 a.m., and there were three people ahead of me.

I have patience for plenty of things in life, but an excessively long doctor room wait is not one of them. I spoke with the doctor's assistant. The last time I'd been to this practice, I'd waited an hour. "OK, just tell it to me straight: Does this doctor regularly have issues with being on time?" I asked. He gave me a sheepish look. "Yes, she tends to be a bit...delayed," he said. "Do you want to reschedule?"

NO! I wanted my shot. I let my office know I was coming in later than expected. I grabbed iced coffee and a bagel. I tried to focus on reading a magazine. But my arm was really throbbing, making me even more antsy about the wait.

When I got taken to a room at 10:35 a.m., the assistant said, "The doctor will be right with you."

And I said, sharply, "Right with me?"

And she gave me a look and said, "Well, you can ask her!"

I immediately felt awful because it wasn't her fault. And I said, "I am in pain, and I really just want to get a cortisone shot." And then I was on the verge of losing it, so I bent over and buried my face in my hands.

"Don't be sad or I'm going to get sad!" she said. "Hey, do you like Diet Dr. Pepper?"

I looked up. "How did you know?" I asked. "That's my favorite soda!"

It was a scene straight out of a hokey TV commercial.

"We had an office party the other day and there's a stash of them in the fridge," she said. "Do you want one?"

"YES PLEASE!!!!" said I. And when she handed it to me, I put it right against my shoulder and held it there. I needed the caffeine jolt, but I needed the cold even more. It felt good. And suddenly, my mood felt better, too. That little bit of kindness helped—and buffered me for what followed.

The doctor finally came in, said "I'm sorry" and started asking about my shoulder. Back in May, it had been in a pre-frozen state but now, she verified as she checked the range of motion (or lack thereof), it was definitely frozen. I asked why my elbow had been hurting, too. "You probably have a bit of tennis elbow because it's compensating for your shoulder," she said. Awesome.

We'd talked about treatment possibilities the last time, and I told her that I was all for a cortisone shot.

"What's that?" she asked, pointing to the angry red bumps on my wrist.

"Oh, it's just a little poison ivy," I said. I'd pulled out a few weeds a couple of weeks ago, and a few days later, those itchy, blister-y bumps had shown up. You'd think after eleven years of living in suburbia I would know better than to do any gardening without gloves, but, no. "Oh, there's poison ivy by the fence!" Sabrina informed me when I told her I had poison ivy. Evidently, she'd spotted it weeks ago, as a good Girl Scout should. Only she'd neglected to inform her Girl Scout Leader mom. "See?" Sabrina said, pulling out a bookmark with a photo of poison ivy that we'd gotten at a Girl Scout event, because those are the types of bookmarks one finds at a Girl Scout event: "It says right here: Leaves of three, let it be!"

On the bright side: This child definitely knows how to identify poison ivy.

The doctor looked at me. "I can't give you an injection," she said, kindly. "I could inject poison ivy into you."

"WHAT?!!!" I said. "But there's just a few patches of it here," I said, pointing to my wrist. "And here," I said, pointing to my chest."And here," I said, pointing to the crook of my elbows. "And...." Oh. I shut up.

Yes, the poison ivy had spread around my body. It was on my skin, bumps big and small and nearly imperceptible, and there was a chance it could infect my shoulder if I got an injection.

I swigged my Dr. Pepper for solace and listened as she promised me that after the poison ivy died down, she'd get me an appointment. I walked out of the office oddly calm. My shoulder was hurting like hell. But that Dr. Pepper had been a wonderful panacea, and I was grateful to the medical assistant who'd offered it me. It was yet another reminder that little gestures can be a big deal, especially to someone having a crappy day.

And so, if you would like to uproot the poison ivy, remove my left arm or run my Girl Scout meeting tonight, I sure would appreciate that.


  1. Wait a minute....Unless you haven't showered since your exposure to the poison ivy plant, or unless you ate a salad of poison ivy leaves, you do not have poison ivy on your skin in your system. What you have is the visible signs of an allergic reaction (contact dermatitis) to a plant that you touched days ago. If new patches pop up, it's not because the poison is "spreading" in your system, but because different areas of your skin that got exposed (including areas you may have touched with your hands before washing them following the initial exposure) are going through the allergic reaction at different rates. And contrary to popular belief, the fluid in the icky blisters is not "contagious"--it's just your own lymphatic fluids going through the stages of a response to an allergen, said allergen residing along your fence, not in your body.
    People with severe reactions to extreme exposure to poison ivy (or oak or sumac) get corticosteriod injections without danger of the shot making them worse.

    Get a new doctor, and adopt that nice nurse! And please feel better soon.

    --Phyl the Cognitive Neuro-psycholinguist (and former victim or a spectacular case of poison sumac)

    1. Nope, did not eat the poison ivy! And I have been definitely thinking about finding a new doctor. SIGH. Thanks, Phyl.

  2. Ack. That whole think just stinks... except for the nice gesture. Hope you find some relief for your shoulder.

  3. Ohhh I'm so sorry. (But yes, hooray for lovely gestures.) I hope you feel better soon.

    I have bursitis in one hip and it flares up and down. I've found acupuncture helpful -- I'm sorry it hasn't helped your shoulder.

    And I'm glad the doctor apologized for being late. I had one incident in which the doc kept me waiting THREE HOURS and then refused to apologize. It was like a Monty Python skit about a dead parrot.

    Me: Do you always run this late? I waited three hours.
    Doc: No, I just got back from vacation so things are backed up.
    Me: [Hinting like a mama] Don't you think it's unacceptable to have people wait three hours?
    Doc: Well, as I said, it's an unusual circumstance.
    Me: [Prompting] It's really not fair to people's time.
    Doc. [...] [looking at me like toddler, apparently determined not to say the words "I'm sorry"]

    Her lovely PA apologized on her behalf when she was out of the room. (Doc is Renuka Tyagi, btw -- a lot of people love her, but just know to CLEAR YOUR SCHEDULE! And don't expect any apologies!)

    1. Whoa. That puts my hour and a half wait in perspective! Hope I never need her services. That's one benefit of being in NY, along with the downside of being in New York: So many patients in need of appointments...but many good docs.

  4. I don't get it. My doctor gave me a cortisone shot to help me get rid of poison ivy. Weird!

    1. I am getting the sense that her caution was completely unjustified.

  5. i have been getting hyalgen shots in my left knee, because it needs to be replaced because its bone on bone and I have declared a moratorium on further surgeries; and have been having a bursitis flare (both tropcanters, actuall) After a 31/2 month bout of uti's I developed a lovelyinfection known as Claustridium Difficile, (a particularly nasty little bug) an over growth of bacterias due to overuse of antibiotics. My physiatrist (physical medicine) could not give me either shot for over a month til I tested negative for C. Diff. I did not have a lovely office assistant offer me dark chocolate - my poison of choice, either. So once again,it was time to suck it up and move on.

    1. Sorry for what you've been through, I hope you are able to get a replacement soon, and that you are on some good pain meds.

  6. I am happy to send a virtual pan of Mac n cheese to lighten your load today.

  7. I like all kinds of soda, especially artificially colored fruit soda.

  8. Wait a second, the doctor wouldn't give you a cortisone shot because you had poison ivy??? When my husband gets poison ivy he goes to the doctor to GET a cortisone shot. You miiiiight want to look for a new doctor. Because you can't inject someone with poison ivy. This woman might need to brush up on her medical and botany knowledge. She should also get a watch.


Thanks for sharing!

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