Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Life In Plastic, It's Fantastic

I returned to Barnes for my third visit yesterday. I saw the same very nice nurse practitioner as I did previously and she recommended a visit to plastics.

She scheduled me an appointment with Dr. Tung. A quick google search tells me that he was charged with violating medical ethics by a woman who is a survivor of silicone poisoning. I can't find any details about the outcome of the suit, but here's the story: she got implants in 1987, she felt one explode in 2003, she went to the ER and was referred to several doctors -- one of whom was Dr. Tung -- and they all said silicone doesn't leak and ignored her complaints. A doctor in Atlanta, Georgia did emergency surgery on her on Christmas Eve and saved her life. This is detailed in her letter which is available online.

But I have been told by some reliable sources that you can't believe everything you read on the internet. And regardless, I am not letting this prejudice me against Dr. Tung, who I'm sure is a very good doctor. Plus, he's doing my arm, not my boobs. And google also tells me that Dr. Tung "recently led a 22-hour, 2-day nerve transplant and muscle transfer surgery on a 21-year-old man who was paralyzed in the mid-upper right arm after a motorcycle accident."

Great. So he's got upper-arm experience.

Anyway, I got home and was talking to my friend J about how I got referred to plastics and he's going to do this procedure that the doctor kept calling an injection but then she said it didn't require a needle it was some sort of air thing. J kept asking me questions I couldn't answer and I realized that I had asked the nurse practioner lots of questions but she had not clearly answered them and she definitely made me feel rushed. Even though she was very nice and friendly. And then J kindly pointed out that I was yet another ignorant victim of the medical establishment or at least completely clueless about what was going to happen to my arm.

So she suggested I call plastics and ask what the procedure is and what I should expect.

So I did.

The nice receptionist says I'm just scheduled for a consultation with Dr. Tung.

Which makes sense because wouldn't he want to look at my arm before he decides what he's going to do with it? But that is so not the story I got from the surgical care unit. This annoys me.

So then I called the surgical care unit and spoke with Laurel the nurse practioner who was very nice (again) and who told me that it is a consultation in that Dr. Tung will look at my arm and determine what he's going to do. She thinks that he will likely opt to inject kenalog (google tells me this is a topical steroid) in my arm to soften and flatten the scarring. Or some other option that would work similarly. He may reschedule me, or he may offer to do it then and there.

So I just need to know if there are GOING TO BE NEEDLES INVOLVED.

Just in case you are unfamiliar with my needle phobia, let me briefly explain:

When I had to get shots for college, I fainted at the health clinic. Needles had never bothered me that much before and I showed up at the clinic before lunch. So I hadn't eaten that recently and when I could feel the tetanus shot oozing into my arm, it just did me in. I woke up on the floor of the clinic with the nurse offering me a can of coke.

In college when I had attacks of hives due to my food allergies and ended up in the ER, the epi shot they gave me hurt like a bitch and the second time I ended up in the ER with hives, I spent an unreasonable amount of time pleading with the cute male nurse to put the epi in my IV where it wouldn't hurt. Perhaps freaked out by the enormous size of my swollen face, he kept trying to explain that he couldn't do that and then he just loaded me up with so much Benadryl I was barely conscious.

Ever since then, needles have gone from a minor annoyance to a full-blown phobia. Just thinking about them can make my heart race and make me feel light-headed.

When I went to get my wisdom teeth taken out, I had to sign all that paperwork about how I realize that the anasthesia could very well kill me and there were going to be needles. I asked if David could come back in the room with me and they said no. So I went by myself and I looked over and saw somewhere between 5 and 10 loooooong and huge needles lined up on the counter. I must have looked weird because a nurse quickly covered them with a paper towel, but it was too late. By the time she started talking about dry sockets, I was gone. I fainted while reclined in the chair and woke up with an oxygen mask on my face, wet paper towels on my foreheard, and David standing over me looking completely freaked out.

I had to reschedule my appointment. The next time they let David come in the room with me and hold my hand. Also they gave me a prescription for Valium and told me to eat sugary snacks before bed (it was all I could do not to make Valium + frozen custard a daily ritual, really). And the next appointment went fine, largely thanks to the Valium, until a freak summer storm blew through town, took out our electricity, and left me with my face triple its normal size and no ice and no air conditioning. We fled to Branson where I thought I was feeling better, ate a huge Frosty from Wendy's, bowled my highest score ever (a 139 -- I usually don't break 100), and then puked everywhere and spent the next three days recovering on David's g-rents' sofa.

Since then, the needle phobia has only gotten worse, although I have managed not to faint the last few times I have seen needles. I now know that I can insist that David accompany me and that I should tell the health care provider I need to lie down for any bloodwork/needle stuff.

So as I persist in my questioning about needles and what exactly this procedure will be, the nurse practitioner at surgical care explains that kenalog is not injected with a needle but with a sort of stream of air that comes out like a shot (I guess this is used in some immunizations).

I guess this makes me feel better?

So now it seems that I am going to plastics for a consultation that will not involve needles but may or may not include the injection of steroids into my arm. Yes, D will be taking the afternoon off work to accompany me.

Also, I might consider writing "NOPE! HERE FOR MY ARM" in marker across my boobs. Just in case.


  1. I was going to call you to clear this all up tonight but then I read your blog:) I'm glad that David is going with you.

  2. The injection thing sounds kinda like the pneumatic air-guns they use to kill cattle. It'll be like No Country for Old Men.