Home from Phoenix, Stories to Tell

Phoenix City Hall
It’s a scientifically proven fact that crooked pictures are at least 47-times more artistic than straight on shots. See?

I went to Phoenix last week for the HMO Research Network (HMORN) conference. The science was fascinating, Phoenix was gorgeous, but my body gave me an awful lot of grief and it was all-in-all a pretty rough trip. I am very glad to be home.

On Saturday morning, my sister-in-law Kayla, the professional Body Pump Instructor, came over to teach my other sister-in-law, Trista, and I the newest Body Pump release. It was an awesome work out (too awesome, even, said my quads the next day), but halfway through I was pretty sure I was going to vomit. I thought maybe it was because I ate breakfast about an hour before and that may have been a mistake (go ahead, ask me if it’s because I’m pregnant, I dare you), but it turns out it wasn’t the breakfast, it wasn’t the intensity of the work out, it was a VIRUS! Or something. And it was miserable. The bathroom pretty much became my home.

Bitty little fever to go with the nausea and diarrhea. Joy.
Bitty little fever to go with the nausea and diarrhea. Joy.

Except… we had to go down to Madison to pick up Curly after surgery and there’s no way Seth could have picked her up on his own. I had to go. Thank goodness for rest stops, Immodium, and Pepto. It was just enough to get me down and back, although it was certainly pleasant for no one. And I’m sure I was not the most uncomfortable person in the car. You see, the ultimate outcome of Curly’s surgery was good, but repair requires use of an external fixator for at least four weeks. (At least— we’re hoping for more like 6 – 8.)

Love when she sits like a person. Not loving the incisions and pins and pain killers and all that.
Love when she sits like a person. Not loving the incisions and pins and pain killers and all that.

Poor baby is having a rough time, of course, but is doing incredibly well. Leaving for Phoenix was particularly stressful on account of leaving Seth on his own to take care of her. I know she’s a dog and normally that means food, water, potty, but not this time. It means 7 different drugs 4 times a day, cleaning of the entrance sites of the pins, and all of the effort required to keep this “high energy” dog extremely calm and as comfortable as possible. No easy task.

The good news, though, is that Seth did exceptionally well. We had Curls into our local vet to check everything over yesterday morning and she was thrilled with how it all looks. I’m particularly pleased with the incisions. She has a big long incision down the outside of both of her legs (on the right to repair the damaged knee, on the left to harvest muscle fascia for the repair) and the difference between this surgery and the last three is truly night and day– clean, dry, beautiful stitches running neatly down each leg. No oozing, no gapping, no swelling, no redness. Definitely a good sign.

Looking cozy, eh?
Looking cozy, eh?

Meanwhile, in Phoenix, I was busy subsisting on the blandest food I could find (lots and lots of dry cereal and bananas, seasoned with the pink stuff, of course) and locating (and destroying) the nearest bathroom until 4 am on Wednesday morning. Bad enough, right? Except on Tuesday night, during a viewing of The Grand Budapest Hotel (which was absolute Wes Anderson brilliance, by the way) I noticed that my hands started to feel kind of bad. Swollen. Puffy. By Wednesday morning, the virus had subsided, but my hands no longer even looked human and finding an urgent care became priority number one.

After presenting our posters in the morning and listening to a few talks, I could no longer bare the spreading and the throbbing (and the concern that my wedding ring may end up resulting in auto-amputation of my finger) and I sought out medical care. Fortunately, there was a walk-in clinic a mere two blocks from the hotel and I headed there for a prescription of oral steroids and some ice packs… three people, ice, and lots of petroleum jelly also helped to get my ring off and my finger was saved. Whew.

I cannot even tell you how kind the clinic staff were. It was amazing. Minnerva, the lovely NP who treated me, has even been in contact since I left because she wanted to 1) make sure I was doing ok (I was under strict orders to seek emergency care should I develop shortness of breath– immediately) and 2) to find out if I’d gotten a diagnosis (medical curiosity– love it). And I did! After a visit first to family practice and then to dermatology yesterday, I was diagnosed with dyshyidrotic eczema and was prescribed a big, fat steroid “blast and taper” to deal with this flare up and a steroid cream to be used at the first sign of blistering in the future.

Done in time to make it to the Desert Botanical Garden-- whew! Itchy hands, but lots of cacti for scratching. (I kid.)
Done in time to make it to the Desert Botanical Garden– whew! Itchy hands, but lots of cacti for scratching. (I kid.)

If you’ve known me a while, you know that this hand rash business is not new. It started happening back in 2009 after I had the swine flu (or, as Seth and I like to call it, the piggy pigs) and didn’t stop happening until I graduated and moved to Wisconsin in 2011. But since then– nothing. Not even once. Sweet relief. So you can imagine my panic when it came back in Phoenix– with a vengeance.

Likely, this is something I’m going to have to deal with on and off forever, but having a diagnosis, knowing some of the triggers (female gender (not much I can do about that), stress (such as traveling on the heels of my dog’s fourth surgery… a surgery that took 9 hours and two faculty surgeons to complete), extreme weather conditions (Wisconsin to Phoenix? that’ll do it), other illnesses (like the piggy pigs or an intestinal virus), and frequent hand washing/transitions from wet to dry), and having a plan for how to deal with it makes a world of difference. At least I feel pretty relieved.

So, lots to whine about, as the 1,000+ words above demonstrate… but also lots to be happy for. Seth did so great with Curly (seriously, he’s going to be such a great dad someday– but again, not preggo, I promise) and it was really nice to travel with Trista. She and I had lots to talk about and I think we’ve come to an important conclusion about some important things to say– lots and lots more to say about all of that at a later date. A series even. Additionally, my poster spurred a lot of really interesting debate. It presented evidence in direct contradiction to the 2009 United States Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) guidelines for mammography screening and someone who came up for the purpose of discussion worked for the USPSTF at that time. Yikes! We had a spirited and interesting debate and I was really pleased with my capacity to have nerve-wracking scientific discourse (with crazy hands) without getting worked up or personally offended or anything. Lots of other poster traffic and I was pretty pleased with the outcome– I’m really looking forward to sharing some of the suggestions and comments with the docs I worked with on the project. Lots of good stuff to think about. Trista and I got to have dinner with she and Seth’s cousin Ginni and her little boy Keegan. The restaurant was a hole in the wall, but an absolutely gem, and then we went for drinks in the spinning Compass Room overlooking the entire city. And finally, last but not least, I came home with four mini cacti from the botanical garden for planting! Pretty dang excited about that!

St. Mary's Basilica in Phoenix. Gorgeous. And look at that sky?!
St. Mary’s Basilica in Phoenix. Gorgeous. And look at that sky?!

I hope you’ll stick with me… and that Trista and others will join me in the upcoming series we’ll talk about tomorrow. It’s important and I’m really looking forward to the discussion. See you then!!!

6 thoughts on “Home from Phoenix, Stories to Tell

  1. I am so glad to hear about all of this happy news! I am also glad to read your not-so-happy news too because, well, I recently went through the same thing! I was just hit with the flu, pretty badly, might I add, and …. although, my fingers didn’t swell up, I think I have a similar skin condition! No dermatologist has been able to diagnose it yet, but what I have sounds like what is posted on that link you provided (thanks!) I get these bumps (small water-blisters, if you will) and they itch. So badly, in fact, that they pop. My skin often starts peeling too. My sisters also have this problem. A doctor once told us we had athlete’s foot on our hands, so we always buy those creams and rub it on (it took us awhile to find some that were not greasy!) Anyway, I think I’m going to read up more on this and maybe take it with me during a future dermatology appointment!

    1. Maybe this crazy, bumpy rash business is genetically linked to naturally awesome curls… n = 2, right? I would definitely ask about dyshidrotic eczema should it happen again and tell them that they better make a slide and do a KOH prep if they’re going to try to tell you it’s fungal! Likely not!! Steroids are the only thing that works for me, but this Vaniply ointment is AMAZING for not making my skin fall off, I’ve only lost a little bit, and that’s a huge improvement over the past! It seriously sounds exactly the same– bizarre!!!

  2. Sounds like that un-diagnosed virus I had junior year of high school… Remember? The thing you acted like was an X-File?

    Glad you and your pup are doing better!

    Most importantly: Wes Anderson! Ammiright?!

    1. Yeah, this was not like that. My face was still normal size, weirdo! Also, no direct injections of epinephrine required. That was something CRAZY whatever you had! I should re-open the case…

      Wes Anderson! Youareright!!!

  3. I’m glad that you and Curly are on the mend. I also like the picture of the cactus giving us the “finger”.

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