Category Archives: Health

Living with polyneuropathy in my feet

More than 2 years ago I was diagnosed with polyneuropathy of the feet.

I started experiencing all kinds of sensations in my feet. From excruciating pain like being stabbed in my feet, to excruciating burning feelings, to experiencing dead feelings in my feet, and also as if strong elastic bands were around my feet and someone was pulling them continually tighter.

The cause?

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Frustration on the day before Christmas

training-in-frustrationIt is the day before Christmas and I am very frustrated. About 6 weeks ago my right wrist and hand started aching something fierce. Eventually, last week my wife made an appointment with the doctor for me, which I attended. The doctor knows about my neck and back problems, but still thought that the problem is just because of overuse of my hand and that it is acute tendinitis that is affecting me. Because I am using Warfarin to thin my blood due to a DVT in my right leg, the doctor could not inject me with the strong stuff, as I am not allowed to use any anti-inflammatory medication. So, he gave me two cortisone injections. I had a previous DVT back in 2013 too.
 

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The saga continues–mom and my hearing

My previous saga

hospital_smLast year was a fairly difficult year for me, landing in hospital 3 times, with one of those visits a real life threatening situation. The result is that I now permanently wear a full length medical compression stocking on my left leg.

My mom’s saga

Then, in the year or so before December 2013, we started noticing that my mom started forgetting things, and we thought it was just typical old age memory loss. That was until she put a microwaveable plastic container in the over to keep the food warm and it melted all over the oven. Then she flooded parts of the house because she simply forgot that she opened the tap in the kitchen or the bathroom.

So, I took her to a neurologist. After discovering that my mom was a smoker, he suggested we have her lungs checked for cancer. He explained that there is a part of the lung, if affected by cancer, could cause Alzheimer’s like symptoms. He referred us to an oncologist and she sent my mom for the necessary scans, etc., and a visit to the hospital for a biopsy. It turned out that he was correct, and she did have cancer of the lung exactly where he thought it would be.

By this time, my mom’s mind had gone so far that she gave the poor nurses a run for their money when she had to go in for a lung operation to remove the offending lobe. They eventually assigned a fulltime nurse just for my mom.

alzheimersSix weeks later my mom had to go in for a PET scan to verify whether the cancer was all gone, which was indeed the case. We also took my mom back to the neurologist for another test to see if her mental condition had worsened. It indeed did, and it was now also confirmed that my mom had Alzheimer’s.

She lived with us and it became more and more difficult for us to take care of her, since she was alone at home during the day. We were concerned for her safety and her well-being. So, we set out to find an Alzheimer’s home for her. It took some time to find a suitable place, which we did. It was insanely difficult for us to take her there and then to leave her behind (I do go visit her every weekend). So, we checked her in on 1 May 2014.

Since then her mind has worsened to the point that she doesn’t always recognise me. She’d be telling the caretakers all about her son, William, but when I get there she wouldn’t recognise me. She’ll have all kinds of stories when I visit such as what she and my dad have been up to. He’s been dead since 2000. This past weekend she asked me if I could please take her to visit her mom. She’s been dead since 2004.

It has been very difficult for me to see my mom like that. She used to be such a strong and independent woman. She ran the household and all the finances when my dad was still alive. Now she has to be checked the whole day, and she needs a caretaker to assist her when she needs the toilet. She also needs adult nappies. She is now a totally different woman than just 2 years ago! Yet, I visit her every weekend, take a chocolate for her to enjoy and perhaps a milkshake. Then I just let her talk about anything that is in her mind.

alzheimers-patients-prayer

My continued saga

cochleaFor a long time now I have been suffering from this continued high pitch noise in my ears (tinnitus). At the end of last year as I was researching this I discovered that it could be caused by many factors, and one of them was wax in the ears. It just happened that I had way too much wax in my ears. I visited a local Kind2Hearing practice where the wax in my ears were cleaned out. The tinnitus didn’t go away. So, I left it to see if over time my situation improved, but to no avail. It became so bad that it woke me up one night. I first thought I’d heard some noise outside, but the noise was so loud in my head I immediately recognised it for what it was.  Even if I put headphones on with music, I can still clearly hear the tinnitus noise.

I finally decided that I have had enough, and today I had an appointment at the same practice. It lasted for 2 hours. The young lady (Nadine Basson) that tested me did a thorough job, explaining before and after what she had done and why. It is no wonder that she did such an excellent job. In her final year of study she was awarded two prizes:

  • SASLHA Prize – Best final year student in Speech Pathology – Clinical
  • P. De V. Pienaar prize – Best final year student in Speech Pathology – Academic

handwithhearingaidI was indeed in good hands.

The result of the testing is that I have hearing loss in both ears in the higher frequency range. In the area where my hearing loss has occurred is also the area where words with “s, f and th” are found most frequently.

Anyway, the long and the short of it is that I need hearing aids for both ears to supplement my hearing in those higher ranges. At least it will help with minimizing the tinnitus while I am wearing the aids, and that will be a great relief.

After 3 months, the DVT remains! Part 2

Following my previous post, I visited my doctor. The outcome of the visit was not very joyful in itself.

Fibrosis has set in, in the vein in question and has for all intents and purposes been destroyed. It will never work again. In fact, it has become unusable to the point that I can now stop taking the Warfarin tablets since they will make no difference to the vein.

Compression Stocking image by Hutchi

However, I have to now wear the medical compression stockings of type TED permanently. If I do not wear this TED I can develop varicose veins, I will be predisposed to ulcers in the leg and cuts on the leg will be difficult to treat.

The reason I now have to continue wearing this stocking is that the valve in the vein that controlled the upward flow of blood is no longer working. So, with the pressure that the stocking exerts on the lower leg helps perform that function now.

As a result of all this, the doctor informed me, I will be predisposed to more DVTs forming. For now, I will have to keep a check on my body and if I feel any pain in my leg or chest, or if I suddenly feel out of breath and if I battle to breathe I have to contact him immediately.

It is difficult for me to fathom this since my leg has been feeling very good and I haven’t had pain in it for a long time. I really thought that by the time today arrived everything would be fine and the DVT would have dissolved. I’ve been trusting the Lord for a good outcome. Unfortunately that is not the case. In God’s providence He has seen fit for me to remain like this for longer.

All I can do is to stand with the prophet Habakkuk and proclaim:

“Though the fig tree should not blossom And there be no fruit on the vines, Though the yield of the olive should fail And the fields produce no food, Though the flock should be cut off from the fold And there be no cattle in the stalls,  (18)  Yet I will exult in the LORD, I will rejoice in the God of my salvation.  (19)  The Lord GOD is my strength, And He has made my feet like hinds’ feet, And makes me walk on my high places.” (Hab 3:17-19)

And to finish off, here is one of my favourite passages in the Bible:

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ,  (4)  just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him. In love  (5)  He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will,  (6)  to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved.  (7)  In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace  (8)  which He lavished on us. In all wisdom and insight  (9)  He made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His kind intention which He purposed in Him  (10)  with a view to an administration suitable to the fullness of the times, that is, the summing up of all things in Christ, things in the heavens and things on the earth. In Him  (11)  also we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to His purpose who works all things after the counsel of His will,  (12)  to the end that we who were the first to hope in Christ would be to the praise of His glory.  (13)  In Him, you also, after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation–having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise,  (14)  who is given as a pledge of our inheritance, with a view to the redemption of God’s own possession, to the praise of His glory.” (Eph 1:3-14)

After 3 months, the DVT remains!

Start of a DVT

So, with this eventful year as chronicled here, here, here, here, here, and here, I had to have a sonar done on my leg this morning with the DVT.

I went in early to make sure that I could be done with this part of the day before I saw my doctor with the results at 10:30. I was in and out of the hospital x-ray rooms in 45 minutes! Really efficient!

However, efficiency put aside, I went in with the hope that the DVT in my leg had cleared and that I could stop using Warfarin and wearing a medical compression stocking every day.

The report-back by the doctor that did my sonar was not what I had hoped for. The report is as follows:

“This study was compared with a previous study performed on 28/2/2013. At the level of the previous deep venous thrombosis [] of the left superficial femoral vein, a thrombus is once again noted with no signs of recanalization… Left SFV thrombosis, unchanged in appearance from previous ultrasound, with no signs of recanalization.”

I will the doctor in about an hour’s time. I expect him to simply continue the course as I have been.

DVT-20130618In the sonar, the following can be seen:

  1. At the top image it can be seen from a front view how the vein doesn’t compress when pressure is applied, indicating that the clot, which stretched about 12 inches, has not dissolved.
  2. From a side view the same can be seen.

So, this is the story thus far. Once I am done at the doctor I will report back on what he suggests we do from now.

The doctor that did the sonar said that she didn’t think that a DVT that was as extensive as mine would have cleared after 3 months, and that I probably have to carry on with my treatment for some time.

Back from hospital, and no cancer!

man in praiseI am back from hospital, and I am grateful to say, I don’t have cancer! Apart from the DVT scare (that still exists), this cloud of cancer that was hanging over me was the worst! It was intended that I go into hospital on Monday, 15 April and that the procedure to find and remove the possible cancer was to be done on 18 April.

The reason for this, as explained in my previous post, was to make sure that my blood returned to normal after stopping my Warfarin intake last week Thursday. By Tuesday morning (16 April), my blood INR was down to 1.2 and I was ready for the procedure. So, I went into theatre on Tuesday afternoon around 17:00. I was done and dusted by 18:00 and being discharged from hospital. Since the doctor found no cancer, I was in and out very quickly. My wife went looking for me at the theatre waiting room, and after thinking that it had been 40 minutes since I went in, she thought to go up to my hospital room. By the time she arrived there, I had already visited the bathroom for some business.

When I returned to my bed, the doctor was already there to give me the good news and to discharge me from hospital.

I am really grateful that I have no cancer and can only praise the Lord Jesus Christ for that!

(1) For the choir director. A Psalm of David. O LORD, You have searched me and known me. (2) You know when I sit down and when I rise up; You understand my thought from afar. (3) You scrutinize my path and my lying down, And are intimately acquainted with all my ways. (4) Even before there is a word on my tongue, Behold, O LORD, You know it all. (5) You have enclosed me behind and before, And laid Your hand upon me. (6) Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; It is too high, I cannot attain to it. (7) Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence? (8) If I ascend to heaven, You are there; If I make my bed in Sheol, behold, You are there. (9) If I take the wings of the dawn, If I dwell in the remotest part of the sea, (10) Even there Your hand will lead me, And Your right hand will lay hold of me. (11) If I say, “Surely the darkness will overwhelm me, And the light around me will be night,” (12) Even the darkness is not dark to You, And the night is as bright as the day. Darkness and light are alike to You. (13) For You formed my inward parts; You wove me in my mother’s womb. (14) I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Wonderful are Your works, And my soul knows it very well. (15) My frame was not hidden from You, When I was made in secret, And skillfully wrought in the depths of the earth; (16) Your eyes have seen my unformed substance; And in Your book were all written The days that were ordained for me, When as yet there was not one of them. (17) How precious also are Your thoughts to me, O God! How vast is the sum of them! (18) If I should count them, they would outnumber the sand. When I awake, I am still with You. (Psa 139:1-18 NASB)

Going into hospital tomorrow

So, as the tough months continue, I have to go into hospital tomorrow. And, you can read about why I need to go into hospital here.

While I believe that God will bring about the best possible scenario from this for me and my family, it strikes me that I am somewhat stressed about this whole thing.

This will be the third time in hospital this year. It started with a broken ankle on New Year’s day. Then, two months later I landed in hospital with an emergency for eight days with a DVT (blood clot) of 10-12 inches long in my left upper leg, caused by the ankle operation on New Year’s day.

When I was in hospital with the DVT, they battled to thin my blood enough for about eleven days. They injected me twice daily at hospital with stuff to thin my blood, while I took tablets to help the process. My blood count (INR) only hit the target range of 2-3 after eleven days. Yet, since then, they have battled to keep my INR below 3 and it has been holding its position to close to 4 for about 60% of the time. Because of this I have a bleeding risk.

Now, since I need this procedure on Thursday, 18 April, I had to stop taking my Warfarin last Thursday, and tomorrow I am checking into hospital so that they can inject me with stuff daily to thicken my blood. So, now the very thing that they tried to prevent, stopping a clot from breaking loose and landing in my brain, heart or lungs, becomes a scary thought. Unfortunately, they can’t perform the procedure with my blood in its current condition, since I could bleed to death on the operating table. So, the battle begins tomorrow to bring my INR count down to 1.2.

Then, apart from this battle, what will they find? Will it be cancer? I pray that God will bring complete healing and that the lump is either just missing, or that it is completely benign.

I trust that in all of this, God will still bring about a good result, for me and my family. We do not always understand the outworking of God’s goodness, but I trust that His wisdom is greater than mine. I trust that all things will go well, and that I will re-join my family in health after Thursday.

Even in the midst of our worries, God is good, just and compassionate.

The tough months continue

So, while I was in hospital for DVT treatment, my doctor decided to send me for a sonar check over my pelvic area just to exclude it from possibly having a DVT. While the radiologist (a doctor) was scanning me, she found a large lump in my bladder. Of course, it was not supposed to be there. She checked the size of my prostate and that seemed normal.

My doctor who was treating me in hospital for the DVT, decided that this thing should be checked out as soon as possible. He made an appointment for me at the Urology Hospital here in Pretoria, and I saw the specialist on Wednesday.

After he checked me out he said that usually, if there is something in the bladder, it is cancer, and that he was treating this as cancer until proven otherwise. He also did a sonar on me, and could not really make out what the lump was and said he was hoping that it would just be a case of an enlarged prostate. He also did some other checks (that should not be mentioned here) and said that he thinks that it is an enlarged prostate. They also found blood in my urine.

However, because he cannot be sure, I am having a biopsy done on 18 April, and if any cancer is found, he would remove it immediately.

I was sent for a PSA blood test, and the results came back today and it is normal. So, if the PSA came back normal, and there is blood in my urine, what the heck is wrong?

A complication to the whole matter is that I can’t simply be operated on or have a biopsy done since I am on Warfarin to thin my blood in the battle against the DVT. So, it will not just be a case of going in on the 18th and then having the procedure done. Before they do anything, my blood must return to normal, and so the last time I take Warfarin will be 11 April. Then, I have to be in hospital on 15 April so that they can start treating me with regular injections to normalize my blood. This must be done for three days.

We are trusting that whatever is wrong, that the Lord Jesus Christ will indeed touch my body and bring healing.

(22) For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now. (23) And not only this, but also we ourselves, having the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our body. (24) For in hope we have been saved, but hope that is seen is not hope; for who hopes for what he already sees? (25) But if we hope for what we do not see, with perseverance we wait eagerly for it. (26) In the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words; (27) and He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. (28) And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. (29) For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren; (30) and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified. (31) What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us? (32) He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things?(Rom 8:22-32 NASB)

A tough two months and more

I wrote about A tough two months that we had through December and January. Well, that has now stretched into March, making it more than 3 months!

My moon boot was supposed to come off on 13 February so that I could be back physically at work on 14 February.

On 7 February I had to rush back to the hospital emergency rooms with an infection in the wound from the ankle operation (1 January). Luckily, the doctor that operated on my ankle was in the hospital at that time, so he came to emergency immediately. He gave one look at my ankle, rattled off a whole lot of things the nurse had to get for him, and told her: “Nurse, I am going to hurt this man now!” Very comforting! He injected my ankle with anaesthetics, waited a few minutes, and then slid the scalpel into the wound with speed and precision. The stitches did not finish dissolving, and with the moon boot rubbing against it, I got this infection. He cut the stitches loose and then with tweezers he removed the stitches. After this he instructed me to clean the wound every two days and put a plaster over it. So, for a week then, I didn’t wear my moon boot and had to keep my leg elevated. I returned to the doctor for my last check-up on 13 February, and everything had turned out well, and the doctor was satisfied with my recovery. I was walking fine, but still had to elevate my leg at the end of the day and put ice on it.

Fast forward two weeks, and I started feeling a pain on the inside of my left upper leg, about two thirds up from my knee. I wasn’t too concerned as it wasn’t really painful. But, by Thursday, 28 February, I woke up with severe pain in my leg and walked very crippled to the breakfast table. By lunch time, the pain had spread to my knee and by about 14:00 my left calf was swollen way bigger than my right calf, and it was red, hot to the touch and hard. Continue reading

A tough two months

The last two months have been a bit tough on us as a family. It first started with me having a breakdown with my car (1) on my way to work. So, I had to have the car towed and fixed. That cost money we did not have! Soon after that I was involved in a car accident (2). More money we did not have.

Then came December! We were hit by burglars twice during December; on the 7th (3) and 21st (4)! Read about that here.

DSC00494Then came December 29… I decided to make some sandwiches for lunch for the whole family. I was using a cheese cutter to cut cheese for the sandwiches, and as I was cutting, the cheese cutter got stuck and I added some pull to the cutter. Then, in the blink of an eye the cheese gave way, and before I knew it, I sliced a chunk of my thumb away (5). There was blood all over the floor. I ran to the closest tap and let the water just take away some of the blood. I next grabbed some paper towels to stop the bleeding. It took some time before the bleeding stopped. As I am writing this blog post, it is eight days after that fateful event, and my body has almost completely repaired that slice of history.

DSC00512Finally, 2013 had arrived! As usual, the family* got together, this year at our house. We were all in a good mood, had dinner and then as per our tradition, went to the movies, this time to see “Here comes the boom” at the 8 o’clock show and then returned home. Then it was time for the teenagers to play with sparklers and we took some pics of that—like the one shown here.

DSC00542Then came midnight, the start of 2013. After all the well wishes to one another, the family got together to shoot the party poppers and this was then captured on camera. As you well know, this is a very joyous time with lots of exuberance.

We had just taken the first party popper photograph when my father-in-law’s phone rang. We all thought that it was some well wisher for the new year. However, it was ADT calling to tell him that the alarm at his house had triggered. So, as it would be expected of men everywhere, my father-in-law, brother-in-law and I jumped into a car and drove over to his house to check out the situation. You never know in these situations what lies ahead.

Anyway, there we were, off like superheroes of the night ready to save the day? When we arrived we all jumped out of the car. The other two went into the house via the garage and I went around the outside of the property to check for entry points, or something like that. I still don’t know what we would have done of we had cornered a live human alarm-triggerer!

My foot in iceWell, then it happened. It was very dark on the outside of the fence as I zoomed around, and before I knew it I was tumbling to the ground, hearing a click sound coming from my ankle. In the darkness, I never saw the hole that I stepped into. All I knew at the time was that I was in intense pain. The other two also returned to the car. It was the dog that knocked the garage door open, which then triggered the alarm. My brother-in-law helped me into the car. As we were driving home I called home to let them know that they should immediately prepare an ice pack. So, about 15 minutes into the new year, there I was with an injured ankle.

Everybody left and it was time for bed. My wife had bandaged my ankle and at about 2am we got to bed. When we woke up it was time to prepare for my wife’s parents to come for our annual braai (barbecue) with them. I got my son to do some of the braai-ing. My foot was swollen, but I didn’t think much of it. We have our own set of crutches that I used to get around. I thought that I just twisted my ankle a bit and that it’ll sort itself out. However, after the in-laws had left, my wife suggested that she take me to the emergency rooms at Kloof Hospital to have it checked out, just in case.

Waiting for the ankle op
Here I am lying in the waiting room
just before the op on my ankle.

Well, in case happened and it turned out that I had a fractured ankle (6)! We got to the hospital at about 5pm, and before I knew it the orthopaedic surgeon on call was there to check me out—he had surgery at 7pm—and informed me that I would need to be operated on. It would be a quick and easy op, but that it would ensure that my ankle doesn’t cause problems later on. So, on 1 January 2013, at 9pm I was in theatre having an op on my ankle. What a start to the year!

The end result of this is that I am booked off work until 13 February! I can work from home, but my supervisor suggested that I at least take sick-leave until the end of January to recover suitably, and in the meantime they will make sure that my replacement laptop (the previous one was stolen) is loaded with all necessary software, and then they would get the laptop to me by then.

So, a tough two months indeed! However, in all this, God remains good, and while in this life, we will undoubtedly come up against obstacles!

My ankle in a back-slap cast
My ankle in a slap-back cast on my hospital bed.
scan0001_txt scan0002_txt
The screw as viewed from the front of my ankle. A side view of the screw in my ankle.

And finally, below is the scar of my ankle operation!

Ankle op scar

The scar of my ankle operation!

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*family – includes me, my wife and kids; my wife’s parents; my wife’s sister, husband and kids; and my mom.

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