Taking care of business

Posted by Allen Rucker in Life After Paralysis on September 04, 2018 # Health

The other day, I stopped to count the number of doctor-office visits I have made this year and the number was 52. That’s one every 4.3 days.

I know, millions of you are saying, “Oh, quit your bellyaching! I went to the dang doctor 52 times last week!” To a quad, I presume, this is bellyaching. To me, it’s my life.

I’m not proud of all this medical attention, for sure, but I’m marking this the Summer of Healthcare. I don’t really care about that number above as much as the kind of dedication to your health that this routine forces on you. It’s a mindset that demands that you place other time-intensive matters down a rung or two or three. It requires that you be ever cognizant of every move you make, every step you take, to the point that you’re thinking about matters of health at every juncture in the day.

Note: I just stopped writing this to take pressure off a sacrum wound for 2-3 minutes.

I contracted a serious problem wound on my outer calf in February simply by pulling a stiff snow boot over a minor skin tear. We got home from Wisconsin and it was clear that this is a wound that needed profession care. As did the wound on my sacrum – technically, a sacrum decubitus ulcer, which we had been managing ourselves – meaning, my wife had been managing -- but without much healing.

These are minor injuries, if not infected, but they are damn hard to get rid of and can literally kill you if you get inadequate care. Early in my paralytic career, I had a calf wound cum infection that demanded immediate surgery. It was the first time I had heard the term, “necrotizing fasciitis,” a severe infection that eats away at soft tissue like the lining of a muscle. TV anchors call it “flesh-eating bacteria.” ‘Yikes’ is right.

As Dr. Christina Sadowsky of Johns Hopkins said on a recent Transverse Myelitis Association podcast, growing old and disabled – my own profile -- demands you think like an athlete in training. You get yourself in maximum condition then worry about the mortgage. Besides physical problems, you are going to be facing “decreasing neurogenesis,” which means you’ll be losing brain cells. To counteract these losses, she concludes, you best be on call with both a doctor and a trainer. That’s right, a trainer, just like LeBron. You are always in training.

It is the right time in my life to intensify my wound healing, along with dealing with chronic shoulder pain and the like. And time is what it takes. Bi-weekly visits to two different wound specialists alone is a real time eater, plus parking. Whine all you want, this is taking care of the most important business on your plate. Monomaniacal watch over skin problems like these, probably like a lot of other problems, is the answer, beyond, of course, never getting another such pressure injury.

Footnote #2: have you noticed, there are a dozen terms for exactly the same problem -- pressure injury, pressure ulcer, problem wound, decubitus ulcer, ulceration, bedsore, chronic this and that. Eskimos have fifty words for snow. Chronic wound suffers, an estimated 6.5 million Americans, are catching up.

In a very popular book a few years back, called “Younger Next Year,” a book about aging in the best possible way, the authors said at one point, to paraphrase, that health is not just your number one job – it’s your only job. When I read that, I said to myself, that’s nice but thank God I haven’t reached that point of around-the-clock preoccupation yet.

That was four or so years ago. I think I may have reached that point now or come close to it. I’m no longer a workaholic. I’m a wound-aholic.

Time to take the pressure off my backside again.