The road to recovery

So much has happened since my last entry a month ago.  One Sunday, on 03/18/12, a year after my Grandma left us, I came home for dinner. Nothing special. Just dinner with my family after 4 hours of reference desk hours.  I wasn’t able to taste and I attributed it to the fact that I had an unbearable toothache for a few days. Last year, I lost my taste buds and sense of smell, during the same time period so I didn’t think it was anything alarming. I also had a terrible pain behind my ear and I kept adjusting the temple of glasses. My right eye had been twitching sporadically for a couple of days.  My tongue was swollen, making it difficult to talk.

Next day, I spent the day with the same symptoms, increasing at the end of the day. Tuesday morning, I tried to get an appointment with the Dentist but there weren’t any open spots for the day. I got to work, and started my day. I got settled in at the reference desk. I started to explore some of the symptoms I was experiencing, hoping that I didn’t have any real problems with my teeth. Turns out I should have been hoping for no real problems, period. Upon closing my eyes, one eye was slower to close than the other, I pretty much self-diagnosed that I have Bell’s Palsy. Two sisters, brother, mother, 2 aunts, sister-in-law and brother-in-law all had Bell’s Palsy so I was aware of what happens.

I left work, and went to Sells Indian Hospital (an hour’s drive west of Tucson) on the Tohono O’odham Nation. One last guarantee my ancestors got before they basically gave up everything else, was free healthcare (I use the term loosely) for their people. What does that mean? I have access to healthcare, free of charge, as a registered member of a federally recognized tribe in the U.S. Who provides that healthcare? It’s under the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, Public Health Services, Indian Health Service. Nothing is ever free. I signed away my rights so all my vital statistics were entered into a database, helping to shape a story about Native Americans in 2012. [End of lesson]

I filled out basic forms since I had never been seen at this hospital. For 18 years, I’ve had insurance, affording me the best healthcare money can buy- numerous specialists, ER visits, etc. Then I find myself being triaged by someone completely desensitized by asking the same questions, taking the same vital stats from sick people, asking questions about what’s ailing them. Lucky for me (and him), I already knew what was wrong with me, even knew which drugs needed to be prescribed to me. It was such a foreign world: industrial size glucometer, extra wide (and probably reinforced) chairs, industrial weigh scale and a tinge of metallic whiff (of blood). It was straight out of a Sherman Alexie novel. I had to fight down the hysterical laughter.

I was referred to the Urgent Care Division and I was called promptly into the doctor’s office.  I was further evaluated by a nurse who took my blood pressure. I took off my jacket to reveal 2 burn marks on my right arm. I had burned my arm (twice) on my sister’s stupid pan, baking some pigs-in-a-blanket because the oven pan had high handles, the week-end before. So now I was thoroughly interrogated on how I got these injuries to my arms. Then I had to go through another round of questions, if there was domestic violence within my household. (sigh) Finally, about 1.5 hours after I got to the hospital, I was seen by a doctor. She was very personable, and was able to ascertain that I had medium intelligence (I knew the symptoms, self-diagnosed myself, knew which drugs I needed). I waited for my prescriptions and came home. The steroids did a number on my stomach. The paralysis of the right side of my face continued to worsen over the course of the next few days. I could barely eat/drink without dribbling. I had to tape my eye shut overnight because it would dry out or I could damage it overnight.

I realize I’m quite shallow but perhaps didn’t realize how vain I was. Or I am. I became depressed as the paralysis progressed to my mouth. My eye wasn’t so evident but when the right side of my mouth was paralyzed, it really affected me. I didn’t want to talk to people – and their trivialities. Yes, I knew the paralysis was temporary (pray, hope, and pray some more). I had a few days to get used to my paralyzed face before I went back to work. I figured the sooner I got back to doing normal daily routine, my recovery would be quicker. As usual, I should know by now, I’m not normal. It was very distressing having to answer/assist people with their reference needs when half of my face won’t work, making conversation difficult. After the 7 days of steroids were done, my face began twitching and the pain. The pain came back with a vengeance – in the jaw, teeth, behind the ear, all radiating to the back of the head.

Last week-end, I went with my Mum and my Auntie to go get a ceremony. My attitude and outlook was getting bleak and worse.  The result was that I was becoming a bigger ass/jerk/jackass than usual. So we took a trip to the Rez for a ceremony. Drove 8 hours, arrived in the middle night to a cold house (this is a usual routine when you travel home). As I was drifting off to sleep, looking through the window at a million stars in the Milky Way, I remembered childhood dreams of what I wanted to do, the places I wanted to see, people I wanted to meet and who I wanted to be. I drifted to sleep, in pain, for a few hours.

We woke up a few hours later to leave for the Medicine Man’s house. The ceremony was something I had never seen before, including the song and prayers (it could have been in Chinese for I couldn’t understand the songs and prayers), and I’m fluent in Navajo. Navajo language for prayers and songs has its own dialect. I felt better for a few days but eventually the pain became unbearable again. In the middle of this past week, I went back to Sells where I was given more drugs (more steroids, vicodin and other drugs). The pain became more manageable after I started the 2nd round of steroids.

Today, I feel twinges of pain but definitely it’s better than the past 2 weeks. It will be 3 weeks tomorrow since the craziness started. There is minimal progress to my paralyzed side of my face, my lower lip, closing my eye, barely lifting my eyebrow. I feel more optimistic that I really am recovering now. I just need patience. I can’t imagine how I would have managed if I were still in Kansas, and this had happened while I was there. I go back to work on Monday, in better frame of mind. I hope good health and thoughts find you on this day, my friends.

Thank you to my sisters Aimee and Wy, for taking care of me on the days I needed the most care. So appreciative of my family and their patience.

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About bibiiwens

Navajo, self-assured, bibliophile, skeptical, analytical and klutzy.
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One Response to The road to recovery

  1. Rebecca says:

    Hi Wendy, I know this is a difficult thing to go through but be glad that you are at home and have support from family and friends. It is a true test of patience, I suppose! But you will get better and things will get back to normal. I’m glad you are feeling more optimistic and I’m here for you if you want to talk or vent (or if you want someone to cover a desk hour!).

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