Friday, June 12, 2009

Lots going on

Hi everyone:

When teachers are lucky, the summer break affords some respite from what for many was a grueling stretch of months. If you've ever met anyone who tells you that teachers have it easy because they have summers off, tell them to follow those teachers around during the school year. Their eyes will be opened. Through this past school year, Patty worked every weekday from 6:45am to at least 4:00pm, and devoted countless evenings and weekends to other activities related to her students. To be honest, I was surprised (and impressed) how well Patty held up to the rigors of a full-time schedule. I was also a little worried, because everyone who knows Patty also knows that our patient would not cut herself any slack for limitations imposed by her health. Fortunately, she made it through without too many battle scars.

So, in theory, Patty should be kicking back now and taking a breather for a while. Alas, no. Instead, her summer break to date has been a sea of medical appointments for various reasons. Let's do a rundown:
  • Patty recently completed the first diagnostics that precede her possible inclusion in the Paracor heart study. These included a treadmill test, a six-minute walk test, bloodwork, urinalysis and an echocardiogram. Based on Patty's results, she would qualify for the study. Her results on the treadmill were not weak enough to justify transplantation (let's keep knocking on wood for that), but not strong enough to exclude her from the study. Her echocardiogram confirmed that Patty's ejection fraction (a key measure of heart function) remains in the neighborhood of 15-20 percent; a normal heart functions at about 55 percent. However...

  • Patty may have to re-do all of those tests in the near future, because the blood tests revealed that Patty had elevated white cells, which is typically indicative of some form of infection. Patty did all of these tests while feeling poorly; she had started the morning with a low-grade fever. What's troubling about this latest bug is that Patty had just finished a full round of kick-ass antibiotics for an earlier infection. Patty is visiting a specialist this morning to see if we can get to the root of this problem. The doctors and nurses leading the Paracor study may be forced to exclude Patty if this issue isn't understood and resolved. What's more, doctors are concerned that these infections may be responsible for Patty's recent dips in blood pressure, which have caused her to experience heart failure symptoms of varying severity. Of course, worrywort that I am, I'm a bit uneasy about my wife participating in an invasive procedure involving the heart, given her seeming propensity toward infection, but I know that Patty's heart failure specialist loves her and wouldn't take a risk that wasn't warranted. But wait...there's more...

  • Remember I wrote a while ago about Patty's back injury? Well, it turns out she also has some problem related to her right shoulder. Why? We have no idea. Patty has limited range of motion in her right arm, and has been experiencing pretty significant pain both while lifting her arm and, at times, at rest. She visited an orthopaedic doc yesterday. Her X-rays showed nothing amiss, so nobody seems to know why Patty's in pain. The doctor gave Patty a cortisone shot that so far has done nothing to alleviate her discomfort. We suspect we'll be revisiting this problem again in a few weeks. But that's not all...

  • Patty still needs to make an appointment to find out why her foot seems to be hurting, off and on, for no apparent reason. Oh, and she has an appointment scheduled to see if there's anything more that can be done about her back, which is still bothering her.

  • Other than that, Patty's doing great.

I'm sure I'm overlooking something. So, truly, this has been a whirlwind start to Patty's summer. Hopefully, we'll soon have answers to address all of these oddities and, with luck, our patient will finally have a few moments of R&R before gearing up for the next school year.

More soon as we learn it...


P.S. Our condolences go out to the great many people who will miss Mary Ann Sittinger, Patty's aunt, who passed away this week. This family has lost too many truly wonderful people over the years, and Aunt Mary Ann and her late husband Bob were among this group. The personalized stocking she knit me as a welcome to the O'Mara clan will always be a cherished gift.

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