Monday, April 11, 2011

What the Health

So anyway...

In my last post I had mentioned Fellow Traveler's latest health issues.

As long-time friends will recall, we have been patiently waiting for FT to get an all-clear from the VA for out-of-system surgery for her jaw, to replace her RA-ravaged cartilage and ease her pain. We had cleared one of the final hurdles in this long (two years, actually) process, when -- the day we returned home from a beekeepers' conference in East Lansing -- she woke up with a stabbing pain in her chest whenever she took a breath. Was it bronchitis? Pneumonia? A heart problem?

We wound up at VA Urgent Care for most of the day; I fretted in the waiting room while FT was poked, prodded, monitored and scanned. Initial diagnosis? Pleurisy; a very painful inflammation of the lining of the lungs. They pumped FT with antibiotics and sent her home with orders to rest and an appointment for some additional cardiac testing just to rule out any heart-related problem.

A few days later we got a call. The doctor reviewing FT's scans didn't like the looks of something on one lung, and was scheduling a follow-up CT scan in June.

This sent me into an internal panic, even as I was keeping up a brave face for FT. FT has never smoked, but her deceased former partner was a chain smoker; had breathing secondhand smoke for years taken a dangerous toll? Had years of asthma done likewise? Had a blood clot in the lung from back in FT's childbearing years left scarring?

While we were processing this news, trying to put a positive spin on it ("They said come back in June...not 'We want to see you next week'...") , FT took her stress test. It wasn't pleasant, but not as frightening as she'd anticipated after reading the scary procedural preparation sheet. She had an echocardiogram. A couple of days passed. Then we got another call: There seemed to be a diminished blood flow to part of FT's heart, according to the stress test results; could she come in for a cardiac consult?

More panic. It was a very quiet, pensive drive back to the VA.

But FT's other test results didn't seem to confirm that there was a problem with her heart. She has a normal EKG; her echocardiogram seemed fine. The cardiology person all but ruled out a heart issue; scheduled another stress test with a different dye medium just to make sure, but told FT, "If you can make the pain happen by pressing on your chest, it's not heart disease." She even suggested that FT's arthritis might be inflaming her sternum and rib joints.  But she wrote FT a referral to a pulmonolgist to further explore the possibility that the pain is lung-related.

If this sounds like a breathless, cursory review of our last month...well, it is. My anxiety response has pretty much burned out at this point. And we're taking things day by day: If FT wakes up with less pain, it's a good day; if the VA doesn't call, it's a good day.

And, ironically, as all this was happening -- FT got her formal, written clearance from the VA for her out-of-system jaw surgery.

I'm trying so hard to work up the intellectual gumption to return to blogging on a regular basis. But if I don't, you'll know why.

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