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Posts Tagged ‘healthcare’

Two Near-Death Experiences & Changes

Posted by Scott Holstad on September 18, 2018

Hello. I’ve been meaning to blog about some events that happened to me this summer, but I haven’t found the time, energy, stamina, etc. But I wrote a post and published it on LinkedIn this morning, and I’m going to provide the link for it here. It’s called “Major Changes.” It details how I suffered two near-death experiences in June and July, how recovery has been largely non-existant, how things keep happening to me, and how I’m unable to do any projects, gigs, favors, or even travel, for months. I’m hoping to be in a much better place by Christmas, but that remains to be seen. I may not make it to Christmas the way things have been going.

While I still have a decent number of blog subscribers here, since I essentially went an entire year without blogging (due to extremely poor health), I’m afraid I’ve lost most of my readers, so I really don’t know that too many people will read this or care, but for the few of you who will, thanks. And I’d like to blog more often — truly. It’s just really hard to find the time, energy, stamina, etc., when you feel the way I’ve been feeling for months. So, my apologies. I hope you are all doing well, and I’ll “see” you guys later. Cheers!

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Trigeminal Neuralgia Situation

Posted by Scott Holstad on March 12, 2016

Okay. Update. This post is largely in response to a request from a reader. As many of you might remember, I have Trigeminal Neuralgia. For those of you unfamiliar with it, it’s a neuropathic disease which affects the trigeminal nerve, the largest nerve in the brain, causing unbelievable head and facial pain. Most scientists, doctors, neurologists, health care professionals, and patients widely consider it to be the most painful disease known to mankind. I’m not kidding. Google it. It’s also widely known as “the suicide disease.” I’m not kidding. Google it. Look at the Wikipedia entry. The last time I looked at it, it was there.

Not many people have it. Somewhere between 35,000 and 40,000 Americans have TN. That’s all. That’s why there’s virtually no R&D done on it. There’s no money to be made in it. There are two major types of TN: Type 1 and Type 2, often also referred to as Atypical TN. I have Type 2. It’s extremely rare. Only about 5,000 Americans have it. I’m one of about 5,000 Americans who have this rare, unbelievably painful facial disease.

The pain is hard to describe accurately. I can only under-describe it. Type 1 pain feels like sharp, electric shocks coming in quick, hard jolts through your face in 15, 20, 30, 40 second episodes over and over again for 30, 40 minutes, one hour, three hours, five hours, then maybe a break for awhile, then perhaps days, etc. It’s unrelenting. The electric shocks are supposed to be ungodly. I don’t experience these with Type 2. The pain usually centers in eye sockets, temples, cheeks, and jaws, although sometimes teeth and gums, as well as foreheads are also impacted. Sometimes even the back of the head. There are triggers. Eating, dental work, brushing your hair, wind, rain touching your skin, foul weather, anything brushing your skin, occasionally stress, it can be just about anything. Sometimes there’s no trigger.

Type 2 is different and a lot harder to diagnose. Instead of a series of short, sharp, insanely painful attacks, Type 2 people experience nonstop, usually all day, unrelenting dull, aching, yet also sharp (if that even makes sense), intense, otherworldly pain centering in similar locations. Allegedly, the pain is slightly less severe, but because it lasts virtually all day, every day, often for days, and in my case, weeks and months and even years, every day, I would assert that in some cases, such as mine, it’s much, much worse. You get no break. It’s horrible. It’s incapacitating. The first year I had it, beginning in the summer of 2010, through the summer of 2011, I spent most of my afternoons and evenings in bed, unable to function, able only to do things in the mornings when my pain was less intense, and even though I’ve not always been bedfast this whole time, I still schedule all of my appointments for early in the mornings and run all of my errands early in the mornings when I am able to, because by my early lunch, I’m usually in a great deal of pain and by after lunch and for the rest of the day, am unable to function as well as I would like, sometimes not at all.

There are treatments, medications, and some temporary surgeries, but only one possible cure, through a risky brain surgery. There aren’t any medications specifically for TN. There’s no money to be made in developing a medication for something that so few people have, so none of the companies have done so. Thus, neurologists and pain management specialists give out other types of medications for pain. The most commonly prescribed medication is Tegrotol, which I’m allergic to. The second one is Neurontin, which did nothing for me. Most TN patients are on incredibly high doses, usually well past the daily maximum recommended doses. Often they don’t get pain relief. Lyrica is another popular medication. There are many others. Sometimes people take Klonpin. I’ve taken that for years, but it does nothing for my pain. Two I take that have helped are Keppra and Topamax. After I started taking them together, I didn’t get a TN attack for some months and that was nice. Of course, there are often side effects and with those two, I had severe drowsiness for two months and fell asleep in my chair every morning and every night at 7:30 pm. It was annoying. Of course, most people with TN have extremely severe pain and these types of anti-seizure and anti-depressant medications only do so much. Sometimes people with 10 out of 10 on a 1-10 pain scale need something stronger. Unfortunately, as I’ve learned with some research, people with Type 1 are not helped with narcotics. People with Type 2 are. I have been taking narcotics since 2010. They used to help quite a bit. However, my pain levels increased threefold over a year and a half ago, and they ceased working like they used to and I had to start taking more and more for less than half the aid they once provided. This was annoying, in part because I didn’t even like taking them in the first place. Indeed, the first thing I normally do is take over the counter medications. I don’t even know why. They’re useless. I just don’t like to jump straight to the heavy stuff. I start with Advil, Tylenol, etc. Then move on to Excedrin Tension and Advil Migraine. Then I go to the prescription non-narcotics, such as Treximet, which used to help, and Sumatriptan and Naproxen, which has torn my stomach to shreds. Then it’s on to the heavy stuff. However, a couple of months ago, I had to bite the bullet and after five and a half years, admit with the help of four doctors and two pharmacists that I had reached my tolerance level and it was time to move up to something more powerful. When my pain management specialist gave me my prescription, I was horrified, because it was for a medication I’ve always heard about and had always heard negative things about and I’ve always heard it’s risky as hell to take this and indeed, when I did research, there were all sorts of warnings everywhere about it. I talked to another doctor and to two of my pharmacists and they assured me they thought it would be safe and good for me and would help me, so I got it filled and pondered things and several days later, started taking it, wondering what the hell would happen. Well, I’m still here. And it has helped. Some. I was hoping it would eliminate my pain, but it has not. I did further research and talked to my doctor and found out, it will not. My doctor told me their goal was to minimize my pain and restore my quality of life. Well, it’s definitely cut my pain, some of the time, perhaps even a lot of the time, certainly in the mornings, so that’s good. I’m also taking a second narcotic for “breakthrough pain” when needed, which is more often than I would prefer, but I’m still getting significant pain episodes, so it’s necessary. But less often than before.

So, what kind of procedures have I had and what are available? Well, I started out having Gasserian Ganglion Blocks. You have to be put out for those. They involve putting a needle through your cheek up through your mouth to your middle cranial cavity housing your V2 trigeminal nerve “tendril” (that’s what I call them) — there are three on each side, giving you sensations in three quadrants of your face on each side —  and anesthetizing the end of the nerve. They have to put you out because if you felt the needle connecting with that nerve end, the screaming would unnerve the entire hospital. Allegedly. I’ve had quite a few over the past five years now. Many don’t work at all. Not even for a day. Total waste of time and money. A couple have worked for several months. One worked for a year, so that was a good investment.

I’ve also had Botox injections, which haven’t helped me much. The longest any have helped my pain levels have been two weeks, reducing my pain about 50%. They’re supposed to help for 2-4 months, reducing your pain 100%. There are also steroid injections. Lately, I’ve been having Trigeminal Nerve Blocks, which I don’t think I’m reacting well to. With the last one I had, last week, I had significantly bad pain afterwards for three days. In fact, the third day afterwards was one of the most painful days of my life. It was absolute hell. If it were possible to rate pain over 10 out of a 1-10 scale, this would have been perhaps a 17. I couldn’t move, think, function, could barely talk, couldn’t read, nothing. None of my pain medications helped. I wanted to die. I actually thought about killing myself. Twice. That’s the first time in a very long time I’ve thought about that. It was horrific.

There are more major surgeries. There are four long term temporary surgeries, including Gamma Knife and Radiofrequency Ablation. I’m thinking of having a Balloon Compression surgery, which is long overdue. I finally made an appointment this week with a strongly recommended Nashville neurologist for next month to discuss this and other surgical options. Why Nashville? There’s only one group of neurosurgeons in Chattanooga and they’re idiots. I met with one last year for this same purpose. I told him my situation and he had never heard of TN Type 2. I was stunned. He didn’t know what it was. I explained it to him. He didn’t believe me. I had to provide documented proof. It’s his fucking field! I know it’s rare and only 5,000 people in the country have it, but if specialists in this field don’t even know of it, you’re pretty screwed. Indeed, I’ve been trying to find help elsewhere for sometime now. Last November, I went to Vanderbilt’s Neurology Headache Clinic. It was a waste of time. They didn’t do anything that my current, local neurologist wasn’t doing. I was turned down by the Mayo Clinic last month. I have no idea why. I’ve decided not to apply to Johns Hopkins. I don’t like their program. The Cleveland Clinic doesn’t even treat TN! Shit. What do you have to do? The one major, biggie surgery is called an MVD. It’s a brain surgery that involves cutting open the back of your skull, going in and rearranging the arteries around the trigeminal nerve and anything else that might be touching it and aggravating it, and if necessary, simply cutting it in half, which is a bit extreme. It used to take a long time to recover from, although that process and time length has really improved. It’s a risky surgery though. It used to be slightly lethal and some neurosurgeons were reluctant to do it. It still can be lethal. A little fewer than 0.05% of people (I think — could be a little wrong with that figure…) undergoing it die on the table. But most people consider it a worthwhile risk. Apparently, the more experienced the neurosurgeon, the better your chances of survival, so it’s in your best interest to find someone good. People travel all over the country to find someone good.

And why has my pain increased threefold? Well, over a year ago, I started getting extreme back pain out of nowhere. Since then I’ve been to my orthopedist and rheumatologist umpteen times, as well as physical therapy for six months, which did nothing at all. After getting all sorts of x-rays and other images and tests and whatnot, I found that I have severe curviture of the spine, spinal stenosis, massive amounts of osteo-arthitis throughout my entire body, worst of all in my hands and lower back, severe disc degeneration in my lower back, so much so that it’s bone on bone in the bottom of my spine and discs above that aren’t much better. I also have severe nerve damage in my lower back and a broken tailbone, as well as pain in my hips and legs stemming from my spinal and disc problems. I wrote a blog post about some of this not too long ago: CT Myleogram and Emergency Procedure. Additionally, about a year and a half ago, I started getting a new and different type of head pain. It was bilateral — TN is almost always unilateral — and felt different. It also wasn’t responsive to any of my procedures and not really to any of my medications, except occasionally to my narcotics. My then-new neurologist diagnosed me with three new head pain disorders: tension headaches, severe migraines, and cluster headaches. For those of you who don’t know what cluster headaches are, many scientists and doctors also feel that cluster headaches, like Trigeminal Neuralgia, are the most painful disorder known to mankind and they are also called “the suicide disease” by some. I don’t know how you reconcile the two, but in any case, I allegedly have both, so I’m totally screwed. However, my wife and I feel there’s a FIFTH undiagnosed, untreated head pain disorder that remains undiscovered that we’re really frustrated about that we feel my doctors aren’t really trying to find. Thus the desire to go out of town. The reason is, I’ve been given a ton of old and new, even experimental, migraine and headache medications and these headaches respond to absolutely none. Not one. They’re responded to no procedure. They’ve responded to nothing. At least the clusters often respond to TN treatments. So in our opinions, this can’t be a migraine. So what is it? So, Mom keeps asking when I’m going to have brain surgery. Like it’s nothing. Well, there are two reasons. First, Type 2s don’t respond nearly as well to any surgery, especially MVD. They just don’t and no one knows why. Second, even if I did respond well to an incredibly expensive, risky surgery and it eliminated my TN pain, I would still have my daily 10 level severe head pain and have to take my same pain medications and it would be pointless. Until this other head pain is diagnosed properly and treated, I see no point.

Surgeries. My back doctors are recommending back surgery to repair my nerve damage, a possible spinal fusion, surgery to remove my tailbone (which I refuse to have), and down the road, two probable hip replacement surgeries. Great. I already mentioned the balloon compression surgery for my head.

Get this. In the past three months, I’ve already had SEVEN minor surgical procedures! Seven. I’ve had four in the past three weeks alone. One was an emergency procedure for a procedure that went bad. I’ve had four procedures that have gone into my spine in the past two months. I can’t tell you how exhausted I am. I’m so tired out by all of these procedures, I don’t want to have another in a long damn time. But I probably will. That’s just how things work out.

I have Trigeminal Neuralgia Type 2. I have a shitload of other problems to contend with right now too. All seem and probably are serious. All are relatively debilitating in one form or another. I haven’t been able to work in over five years. I miss working in an office, doing something productive, interacting with co-workers. I miss having a social life. I feel badly that I can’t take Gretchen out on the town like I’d like to. I feel like I’m screwing her over badly. But she’s got a really good attitude and she’s incredibly supportive and I really couldn’t make it without her. She lets me talk and she listens. She offers input when I ask for it. She takes care of me. It’s damned nice of her. That’s true love. I’m very lucky to have her.

If you ever meet anyone with TN, I hope that this blog post will have helped you to understand their situation to a certain degree. I hope you will understand their feelings of helplessness and hopelessness. I hope you will be supportive. I hope you will say a kind word to them. Meanwhile, thanks for reading this, if you did. And have a good weekend.

 

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Vanderbilt Neurology Headache Clinic Visit Outcome

Posted by Scott Holstad on November 14, 2015

As I may have mentioned, I have spent several months trying to get into Vandy’s Headache Clinic before finally finding out I was accepted and getting an appointment. It was for this past Thursday. I was both excited and nervous.

Some background. In September 2010, I started getting horrific headaches that I thought were severe migraines, but they didn’t go away and only got worse. My quality of life lessened and they became incapacitating. Eventually, I had massively severe head and facial pain, largely unilateral, which worsened as the day progressed, each day, and I was only functional in the mornings, having to spend the rest of the day in bed. I tried all sorts of pain medications, mostly over the counter and prescription migraine, but the only one that ever helped at all was Percocet. In February 2011, I quit my job. I could no longer function. By that point, I was busy going to all sorts of doctors, dentists, chiropractors, etc., et al, in morning appointments, all over town, trying to find a diagnosis and cure for my condition. The pain was ungodly. Virtually everyone I went to threw their hands up into the air and said they didn’t know, they couldn’t help me. One neurologist I went to had me undergo a lumbar puncture to test me for pseudotumor cerebri. I needed a “score” (spinal fluid pressure) of 20 to have it and I got a 19, right on the cusp, so he concluded I did not and then said he couldn’t help me. So I went to yet another neurologist. He tried a few things and nothing worked, so he sent me to a pain management specialist. In the meantime, my psychiatrist asked if anyone had suggested trigeminal neuralgia. I said no. He said I should look into it. As soon as I left his office, I looked it up and I’ll be damned if it didn’t look exactly like what I had. There are two types and it seemed to me I had the harder one to diagnose, Type 2. When I went to the pain management specialist, he spent an hour and a half with me and listened to me and went over many things with me and then agreed with my assessment and gave me a preliminary diagnosis of TN Type 2 and scheduled me for a diagnostic procedure called a gasserian ganglion block. If I responded to it, I had it. I underwent the procedure, the pain immediately disappeared for the first time in 10 months and it stayed away for 18 days. I had it. I was elated! There was finally a name associated with my problem and that meant there were actual ways to treat it. Nothing great, unfortunately, but ways. Ironically, there’s one medication that is supposed to work really well for people, but I’m allergic to it, so that leaves nerve blocks and five different surgeries, all but one of which are temporary fixes. The other one is a permanent “cure,” but it’s dangerous, sometimes fatal, and some neurosurgeons are reluctant to go that route. And it can kill the nerves in your face and take a year to recover from. So it’s the last resort. So I’ve had a series of nerve blocks over the past few years, some effective, the last three, last year, totally ineffective.

Fast forward to Spring 2014. My TN had been somewhat under control for awhile and I was glad. Then I started getting a new type of head pain, a “standard” type of bilateral headache that was incredibly severe. It’s gotten worse over the past year and a half and this year, it’s been brutal. It’s gotten so bad that I now have a 9 or 10 out of 10 headache pain 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, every month, all year. I don’t get any breaks. Pain medications do little. Combine that with the severe back pain I’m in, which is also a 9 and 10 out of 10, and I’m in constant agony. I’m looking at several possible surgeries there. In the meantime, I’ve been to my primary care physician, my pain management specialist, a new neurosurgeon, and now a new neurologist trying to find the source of this new damn head pain and a way to stop it. That’s what the three gasserian ganglion blocks were for last fall, but I knew they wouldn’t work because I knew it wasn’t TN pain and I couldn’t get my damn doctor to understand that. My doctors don’t believe me when I tell them my pain is bilateral. In fact, my neurologist told me last time I was there that in all the years he’s been practicing, and he’s a headache specialist, I’m the FIRST person who’s ever told him he has a bilateral headache! I find that virtually impossible to believe. Impossible. By the way, he has diagnosed me with a cluster headache, which is supposed to be the most severely painful condition known to mankind, just as trigeminal neuralgia is too, depending on which research you read and believe. Either way I’m screwed. And this neurologist, to his credit, seemed to be trying some things to help me, but not very well. His meds he gave me did nothing. He gave me Botox injections, but they helped some for a couple of weeks and that’s it. And I don’t like him. He’s the most ego maniacal, narcissistic, controlling doctor I’ve ever met and all of my other doctors I’ve ever had have been wrong, wrong, wrong because only HE knows what’s right. Asshole. So I’m going to stop going to him. That’s when I decided to look to for a better facility out of town for help, cause Chattanooga doctors are worthless.

Enter Vandy. Allegedly a good neurology department with a headache clinic and 80 neurologists on staff. I had some preliminary medical records sent to them with a referral and I was eventually accepted, as I said. I was sent a letter instructing me to bring all of my medical records with me, so I spent two weeks and $120 getting them from four doctors. Getting them from my neurologist was pure hell. He didn’t want to give them to me. Kept making excuses. Had to “approve” my request. Had my personal file in his office which his staff didn’t have access to. Demanded to know why I wanted them. I refused to tell him. If I told him I wanted to take them to another neurologist, he would have gone apeshit insane! I don’t think he would have given them to me. Gretchen decided to go with me for two reasons. One is, it’s a six hour drive both ways and because of my pain, I probably wouldn’t be able to drive back on my own. So that was nice of her. Also she wanted to be supportive and supply supplementary information to the doctor in the consultation and learn things in general. So I got a list of all 22 of my prescriptions and got all of my paperwork together and we hit the road at 7 AM Thursday.

We finally got to Nashville and got there early enough to have a cup of coffee. I then checked in. I was registered and a nurse took my vitals and recorded all of my medications and asked some various questions and then we had to go wait out in the hallway lobby, where there were virtually no seats anywhere. Now understand, we had high expectations. I viewed this as my last resort. My last hope. We expected to spend serious time here. We expected to meet a doctor, spend a great deal of time going over my head pain history, maybe pointing out some things in my various medical records, being given a thorough exam, asked a ton of questions, being given a preliminary diagnosis, and hopefully a new “miracle” prescription that no one in Chattanooga was smart enough to think of. We thought we’d spend some two or more hours there easily. When I went to my consultation and diagnosis at my pain management specialist, he spent over an hour and a half with me.

So, we were taken back to a room and eventually, a very young, very tiny black woman came in and introduced herself as Dr. Williams. She was energetic and extremely assertive. She hadn’t read any of the massive amounts of paperwork I had filled out at home and brought with me or filled out while I was there waiting. I showed her my huge pile of medical records their letter instructed me to bring and was going to hand it over when she surprised us be telling us she didn’t want it. It wasn’t relevant. It didn’t matter. She didn’t care about it. That seriously pissed me off because I spent money and a lot of time and effort getting those records and she blew that off in 30 seconds. In terms of discussing my head pain background, she spent less than five minutes, if that. If that. She seemed more interested in my ADHD and my Adderall. She wanted to know if I’d ever had Botox treatments. That was a question I had just answered on the paperwork I had filled out in the lobby. If she had looked at my paperwork she would have known the answer to that. I told her once. She told me it takes three full treatments of 31 facial injections each before they work. So, she decided to prescribe two migraine medications that I don’t need and won’t work, one of which my rheumatologist has forbidden me from taking, and to double my dose of Topamax, even though I’ve been on the higher dose and found the side effects so horrible, I begged to be taken off it. I was also stunned she would do that without even consulting my doctor who prescribes my Topamax for me now to see if he was okay with that. That’s not professional. She then said I needed Botox treatment “right away.” I thought that would mean next week. Gretchen asked if I needed to drive all the way back up here for that, if someone in Chattanooga could do it. She didn’t seem very thrilled with that, so I volunteered to drive back up to Nashville, which seemed to mollify her. She said the scheduler would set up the Botox treatment. For right away. And she gave me their first available appointment. For mid-February. Mid-fucking-February. Assholes. And this Dr. Williams spent a grand total of perhaps, at the most, 20 minutes with us. We drove six hours for that. Six fucking hours. As Gretchen pointed out to me on the drive home, she didn’t do ANYTHING that any doctor in Chattanooga couldn’t do himself. Nothing. Where was the Vandy magic? Where was the Vandy reputation? And this woman was so sure of herself, so cocky. She KNEW she would cure my pain immediately. And I’m totally unconvinced. Everyone else has tried and failed, why would she succeed? So I gave the visit a generous C-. Gretchen gave it an F. Gretchen was lived. She thought the doctor had an attitude and a serious chip on her shoulder for some reason. She thought she didn’t like Gretchen questioning her. Maybe she’s right, I don’t know.

I had an appointment with my primary care physician here in town yesterday. I told he and his nurse about my experience. They were horrified. They’re going to refer me to yet another local neurologist in the hope that I can find one decent enough to think — apparently they all suck in this town; it’s well known — and maybe, if he agrees with the Botox assessment, he can do it on his own well before I would have to go back up to Nashville again. And then I could just dump Vandy and strike it up as a stupid effort on my part. And there’s always Emory in Atlanta. They’re supposed to have a good pain clinic. Although I’m somewhat leery now. Some of my friends are suggesting the Cleveland Clinic or Mayo, but I’m not made of money. I can’t afford to do that. Geez! It’s got to be within driving distance. That limits my options tremendously. All I can say is Gretchen and I feel really disillusioned with our experience with Vandy and don’t think they really know what they’re doing, no matter how good their reputation. Maybe all Tennessee neurologists are inept? It’s possible. I expected a minimum of two hours and a thorough consultation. I got 20 minutes and a treatment plan I’m not convinced will work and which any doctor in Chattanooga could do next week, not three months from now. I can’t believe I waited for this, hoped for this, put all of this time, money, and effort into this. What a bust.

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2014 in Review

Posted by Scott Holstad on December 31, 2014

At the end of the past two years, I believe, I’ve written about what took place during that year, so I’m doing so again. Here’s the synopsis, as best my memory can recollect.

In January, my mother celebrated her 84th birthday, so we spent a little time with her. The month was otherwise uneventful.

In February, we put our old house on the market and moved to our new house. We’re pretty grateful for the trade. Our old house was in what looked like a nice neighborhood, but it was actually nearly a ghetto. It was very loud and had a lot of crime. Now, we’re up on top of a mountain in a quiet neighborhood with no crime. We feel good about that.

February also saw the death of our beloved cat Toby. He was only six and it didn’t seem fair. He essentially died of kidney failure, although we sadly had to put him to sleep (which seems to me to be a pansy way of saying we killed him). We had him cremated and keep his ashes with my late cat Rocky’s ashes. We still miss Toby a lot.

We also got a membership to a good shooting range in February and have enjoyed that a lot.

March was pretty uneventful.

In April, I got a new car. I traded in my lemon BMW 530i for a 2011 Toyota Camry and couldn’t be happier. I found it on Autotrader at a dealer in Atlanta and went down there, beat someone else coming to buy it — barely — test drove it, and left with it to come home. It’s been a great car.

Sometime around April also saw the return of my head pain that I’ve had since 2010. I have trigeminal neuralgia, so I have to take a lot of pain pills and have had a number of procedures to try and combat it.

Additionally, Gretchen’s birthday is in April, so we went up to Baltimore to celebrate it with her friends and family. We had a very good time. It was great to see everyone and we got to go to an Orioles game, a museum, some good restaurants and even saw some friends in Virginia on the way.

Finally, we celebrated our one year anniversary in April. It was pretty low key, but we had a good time remembering our wedding and honeymoon to the beach the year before.

In May, I got a SCCY CPX-1 9 mm through an online auction site for a very good price and a Beretta PX4 Storm at a gun show. Neither gun has turned out to be my favorite — a Ruger SR9c is — but I was happy to have them. Meanwhile, Gretchen turned out to be a pro with our Marlin .22 rifle.

I believe it was May, too, when Mom moved from here back up to Knoxville, her old home. It was sad to see her go, but it was good for her to be back with her many friends and at her old church, which she had missed. She got a nice one level condo and is living on her own. We do worry about her though.

In June, we thought we had a buyer for our old house, finally. We had had to lower the price three times and it was going for practically nothing. We were about to take an $18,000 loss on it. However, the financing for this buyer fell through, so we were back at square one.

In June, I also had a disability hearing. It was my second time in court for it and I was denied for the fourth time. However, my lawyer appealed. And the judge left open the chance that he might rule in my favor if my orthopedist provided appropriate information.

July was the one year anniversary of my father’s death. That was very sad. We went to visit his gravestone in the cemetery where he’s buried in Knoxville. In July, I also had the first of three neurological procedures for my head pain. It didn’t really work, so that was disappointing.

We also had a new buyer for our old home in July. They were doing FHA financing though, so it would take awhile. They agreed to buy the house at very nearly the price we were asking. The closing was set for October.

I think August was pretty uneventful. I had been doing a lot of traveling back and forth between Chattanooga and Knoxville to help Mom out with things. That got old. We also started looking for a new church, even though I was on the vestry of our old church. It was simply too small and too old. We were the youngest people there and people were dying off and no one new was joining. It was a dying church. So we started going to other Episcopal churches, as well as Methodist and Presbyterian.

In September, I celebrated my 48th birthday and tried not to get too depressed.

During that month, I also had two more surgical procedures for my head pain, but neither helped. It was discouraging.

October came around and the financing for our house’s buyer fell through the day before the closing. We were livid and so were they. However, our realtor worked the phones and found a new lender within two days, so they were approved and a new closing was set for about two weeks away.

I also had my third court hearing for my disability. My lawyers prepared me for disappointment. They said everything would hinge on what the medical expert would say and they didn’t expect much. When the judge started questioning the expert, though, I was shocked to hear him say my back was too bad to work and that, combined with my trigeminal neuralgia and other assorted things, meant I couldn’t work at all. So the judge finally ruled in my favor and I got disability. I was shocked and elated, because I had been trying for this for over three years and now finally I got it.

During this time, my insomnia had gotten worse and I was consistently getting up between 2 and 3:30 AM, which was frustrating.

We did something pretty fun in October. For my birthday, Gretchen got me Penguins tickets to go see them play the Predators in Nashville. So we went up there, went to Bridgestone Arena, which was nice, and saw the Pens win 3-0. It was very fun and we had a great time. We also had a fantastic meal at a nearby restaurant before the game. Oh, and there were a ton of Pens fans there too!

October is also the month for Halloween. We never had kids come to our house at our old place, but we had about 25 kids come to our new house, so we were tickled about that.

In November, we traveled to Saint Simons Island GA, where I used to live, to go to the beach and take a nice vacation. The weather was still good and we had a nice time. We also went to Savannah and Jekyll Island. It was a great vacation.

In November, we also finally sold our old house and with the money I was able to pay off all of my old student loans, which was a sizable sum, so that was great. However, we discovered a water leak in the kitchen the day before the closing. The buyers still bought the home, but we went through a nightmare getting repairs to the floors and cabinets done while these people got impatient waiting to move in. I don’t blame them, but they drove me nuts.

Additionally, we had a new addition to the family this month. Ace, a three month old tabby cat, joined, per Gretchen’s strong wishes. He’s a bundle of energy, but he’s been fun.

This month, in December, I finally got my disability award letter and a lump sum for my back pay. I also got my Medicare card, even though I’m retaining my Obamacare insurance cause it’s frankly better.

We also found a new church we’re joining next week. It’s Rivermont Presbyterian Church, which is a UPUSA church. It’s bigger with more people of all ages and has a number of Sunday Schools to attend, so we’re excited.

We celebrated Christmas last week and had a great holiday season. We sent and got a lot of cards and exchanged some great gifts and had a good time. Of course it’s also bowl month, so that’s good.

In sports, my Steelers have made the playoffs, so I have big hopes for them. My Pirates made the playoffs for the second year in a row, but didn’t get anywhere. There’s always next year, right? My Penguins made the playoffs, but got bounced out in the second round by the Rangers, so that was disappointing. They’re playing now and even though they have a TON of injuries, they’re still having a good season. Meanwhile my Vols made a bowl game for the first time in four years and they’ll be playing Iowa on January 2. I’m hoping for a win.

So, it was an up and down year. I still have head pain. I still have insomnia. Gretchen was diagnosed with fibromyalgia and lupus. That’s bad. But we got a new house, a new car, paid off my student loans, and I got disability, so that’s all good. We’re hoping for a great 2015 and we hope all of you have a great 2015 too. Cheers!

 

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Austerity Kills!

Posted by Scott Holstad on May 22, 2013

Austerity Kills: Crippling Economic Policies Causing Global Health Crisis | Alternet.

The Republicans are wrong. Austerity is NOT the answer!

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No Insurance? Why?

Posted by Scott Holstad on January 16, 2013

Recently, I went to my appointment with my pain management specialist only to find out he’d left to go form his own practice. They gave me his new contact information. Why they couldn’t have contacted me and saved me the trip in is beyond me, but with health practitioners, not much makes sense these days.

So a couple of days ago, I called the doctor’s new number to schedule an appointment. It’s a post-surgery appointment, for Pete’s sake! It’s kind of important. As I was scheduling my appointment, the woman on the phone told me he wasn’t accepting insurance, so I would have to pay with cash or a money order. I was stunned! Appalled. Mortified. I’ve been out of work for awhile now and can’t afford to pay for health care visits out of pocket. More importantly, I have insurance — good insurance — and isn’t that what it’s there for? Why in the hell isn’t he taking insurance? Well, I’ve heard the reasons lately, mostly from health care practitioners, and it sounds like sour grapes to me. Doctors don’t make the money they used to with insurance. They don’t make enough money. They don’t want to take insurance anymore and would rather have people pay out of pocket so they can pocket all the dough. Greedy bastards! I guess two yachts and three mansions aren’t good enough anymore. I’m sorry, but don’t they understand that if they don’t take insurance, they’ll see a big drop off in patients? People can’t afford to spend $400 for a visit to the damn doctor! I know that’s a drop in the bucket to doctors. To me, that’s a lot of money and I don’t have it. I’m busy making insurance payments with it. Don’t they see this? Do they not care? Are they seriously this greedy and selfish? I’ve heard the sob stories. One of my former doctors said after he pays out his overhead and staff expenses, etc., he makes about as much as a teacher, but I find that very hard to believe. My fiance worked in the healthcare industry and I know plenty of other people who do as well, and I know how many patients these doctors are scheduling and how much they’re charging and I’m pretty convinced they’re not hurting. And besides, why do they have to be so damn greedy? I thought you got into medicine to help your fellow man. Or is that a thing of the past?

This isn’t isolated. A year and a half ago, I was dissatisfied with one of my specialists and started calling around to find a replacement. Not one was taking insurance. So I’m still stuck with this joker of a doctor. A similar situation occurred again about a year ago. I think this is a sign of times to come. Doctors just aren’t going to take insurance cause they want ALL the cash from the visit their patients make to them. And God forbid someone on Medicare or Medicaid seek medical help. All I ever see are signs on doctors’ walls stating they no longer take Medicare patients. WTF? Greedy bastards! I’ve heard people try to get me to pity them by stating that they went to college for eight years and had a residency to make it through and have big college loans. Well, boo hoo. I went to college for 13 years, have three — and nearly four — degrees and will be paying my student loans until I’m nearly 70 years old. And I don’t make anything close to what a doctor makes. No sympathy, sorry.

I’m not sure how to end this blog post. Has anyone reading this had similar experiences? Any advice? Any further thoughts? Any solutions? I’m really worried about the future of healthcare — mine especially — and if our expensive insurance is no longer going to be honored by our doctors, where does that leave us? Screwed, right? Right.

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