Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Mental Illness and the Church

This is a FANTASTIC read for ALL Christ-followers. We are all still learning, but I think the area of mental illness & the church is something that needs much attention, education & awareness, as well as biblical teaching on the issue. Our goal as Christ-followers should be to "bind up the brokenhearted, proclaim freedom for the captives, and release from darkness for the prisoners" (Isaiah 61:1). Lord, move our hearts to minister to this area of need within the church. May we always seek to love like Christ loves. Amen.

Click HERE or click the link below:
2.9 depressed

BELOW: "What you're looking at is a myosin protein dragging an endorphin along a filament to the inner part of the brain's parietal cortex, which creates happiness. You're looking at happiness." - Satya Robyn

Click HERE or click the link below:

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Back Surgery #2 - Coming Soon!

Medtronic is the brand device that will be used for my
Spinal Cord Stimulator Surgery Implant. The picture
above is of the battery that is implanted under the skin and
muscle, but can serviced every few years if needed without
too much trouble.
Hello sweet friends! My doctor's appointment from last Thursday went really well, in which we discussed the surgery my specialist from Birmingham (whom I see monthly) recommended because we are basically out of options as far as conservative treatment is concerned. This new physician from Huntsville discussed with me all the pros and cons to surgically implanting a Spinal Cord Stimulator (SCS) Unit.

Some of you may be wondering what a spinal cord stimulator (also called a dorsal column stimulator) does. Spine Health defines spinal cord stimulation as "an aggressive pain management technique that involves surgical implantation of an electrotherapeutic device onto the spinal cord. In the procedure, a device is implanted that produces low levels of electrical current to the dorsal portion of the spinal cord to block the sensation of pain. Spinal cord stimulators may be a fully implanted system or a system with an external power source. Spinal cord stimulation is often used to treat neuropathy (neuropathic pain, or nerve pain) from failed back surgery syndrome or radiculopathy. Spinal cord stimulation has shown to be an effective long-term treatment for back pain."

The complete process of this surgery involves:
1. Prior-authorization from insurance (which takes roughly 35-40 days to receive)
2. A trial placement and time period (of just 2 electrodes - outpatient surgery vs. the roughly 16 they will be implanting with the actual surgery)
3. The final surgery with the permanent SCS Unit being implanted if the trial goes well.

As far as the final surgery is concerned, it is known to be pretty rough because it is an open surgery with several incisions, at least two being quite large, where they cut down to the epidural space (past the spine) in several areas to get prime placement, and they also thread each electrode through the soft tissue of the back to connect underneath the muscle tissue.

Despite the difficulty with the final surgery regarding recovery, the success rate with this surgery is fairly high (especially since you get to experience a trial prior to having the permanent SCS implanted). I also know several friends with these medical devices and they love them. The SCS is NOT designed to take away all of my pain, nor to allow me to discontinue all medications. However, the goal from this surgery is for me to be able to cope with my daily pain in a dramatically better way (allow me to function better).

The surgery will take place at Huntsville Hospital and I will stay at least one night in hospital following surgery. It's a bit of a drive from our home, but it's worth the quality healthcare. And the visit was worth the drive, because I got to ride the tram.... :o

Both Rence and myself are excited about this opportunity. We would greatly appreciate your prayers in the process, as we seek prior-authorization from insurance - that it would be approved - and that God would continue to give us wisdom in our finances as we save up for the up-front costs of the surgery. Please also pray that God would provide willing servants of Christ to help us through this process via childcare and meals for a few days when that time comes. Thank you so much, dear friends! It means the world to us!

PS - For anyone interested on more about the procedure, here is a link to what a Spinal Cord Stimulator is all about (click the "here" button above OR copy and paste the address below).

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Updated Diagnoses of Spine, Lower Extremities & Chronic Pain Disorders

I hope that this blog post finds everybody well and off to a great New Year!

Some may remember that I had a procedure done in the middle of December that was outpatient. This was a CT Myelogram. The myelogram itself is a procedure in which they inject a contrast dye directly into the spinal canal (much like an epidural, except more fluid), then manipulate the body (and actually tip you on a table) to let the dye flow into the desired areas of the spinal canal and nerves surrounding it. The technicians then take pictures while the patient is in each position, all under radiofrequency equipment, to see what areas of the spine are damaged. After the myelogram is complete, the patient is then sent to the CT scanner while the contrast fluid is still in the spinal canal, allowing for better visibility of possible abnormalities. The myelogram itself is a painful process simply because of the positions they put you in after the dye hits the damaged nerves (which hurts terribly - multiplies your pain by 10x at least). But in the end, the clear picture of damage is much better than any MRI or CT (by itself).

This year, they found more damage in the cervical spine (neck). I have 4 bulging discs in the neck that we were not originally aware of. That makes for 7 bulging discs in the spine total. They also were able to see (miraculously) the impingement of the L4 nerve. To actually SEE evidence of an impingement is pretty note-worthy. I have EMG studies that have found nerve damage from the age of 24, but they could never see it on a study. They also found that my discs are beginning to collapse on one another at the L4 & L5 levels.

Much of the other findings were things we were already aware of, such as the progressive degenerative disc disease, spinal canal & foraminal stenosis, bulging discs & bilateral foraminal narrowing, etc.

Spinal & Chronic Pain Conditions:
* Hypertrophic facet disease
* Facet Arthopathy
* Progressive degenerative disc disease (cervical and lumbar)
* 2 collapsed discs in lumbar (L4, L5)
* 8 bulging discs in lumbar & cervical spine (C2, C3, C4, C5, C6, L3/4, L4/5, L5/S1)
* 2 torn discs (L4/5, L5/S1)

* Thecal sac compression (L3 & L4)
* [Visible] nerve root impingement (L4)
* Gross spinal instability (lumbar)
* Spinal canal & foraminal stenosis

* Bilateral foraminal narrowing (L3/4, L4/5)
* Ligamentum Flavum Hypertrophy (not connected with Hypertrophic Facet Disease)
* Bilateral sacroiliac (SI) joint dysfunction syndrome
(SI joints aligned and 85% relief from surgery -   SI joint bilateral fixation with screws)

* Piriformis Syndrome (80% relieved due to surgery - Piriformis Release)
* Mild Scoliosis
* Peripheral neuropathy in both legs and feet
* Bone tumors in cervical spine (neck)

* Chronic Pain Syndrome (CPS)
* Fibromyalgia

* Myofascial Pain Syndrome (MPS)

The following diagnoses are impacted by the spinal & chronic pain conditions:
* Insomnia
* Adrenal Fatigue, Stage III (out of IV)
* Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS)
* Chronic Migraines (with ocular changes)
* Vertigo

That's a total of 40 diagnoses (if you count each damaged disc as a diagnosis, as they do in the medical field). 33 of those diagnoses are oriented of the spine. The remaining 7 diagnoses are usually linked to my chronic pain in some way, yet separate from the actual disorders of the nerves and spine.

Although the diagnoses keep adding up, so do my blessings. I'm alive. I have great access to healthcare. Yes, I struggle with bad days just like anyone else does, but I also have great days. God gave us emotions for a great reason. But I also need to trust God, and not my heart, not my emotions. And let me tell you - with that trust, God brings us a great hope for today and tomorrow!

2 Corinthians 4:15-16 (NIV)

All this is for your benefit, so that the grace that is reaching more and more people may cause thanksgiving to overflow to the glory of God.
Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.

Review of Sacroiliac Joint Surgeon, Physical Therapist & Hospital

Well, it's been 9 months since my last update on my blog. I never intended to lag behind so badly, but with the recovery of major back surgery from March 2015, attempting to homeschool two 4-year old boys [using my own curriculum], and so much more, I simply put blog updates on the back-burner. But I'm back, and although this blog is by far not my priority (but rather a hobby), I hopefully can update every month or so with a blog post.

So I wanted to briefly touch on my surgery experience following the Bilateral Sacroiliac (SI) Joint Stabilization Surgery and Bilateral Piriformis Release performed by Dr. David Weiss in Gainesville, GA. First off, I do not get any sort of benefit from promoting Dr. Weiss or his business. I say all of this simply to share information for those who might be in the situation I was in, and with limited options as I was faced with.

As with any health organization, there are pros and cons. I'll start off with the only complaint I had, which in hind sight is very small in comparison with the great results of the surgery and the excellent staff that worked with me. When going the route of using Dr. Weiss' office, they have to facilitate the use of a Physical Therapy office that at the time [the office] struggled to communicate the charges (outside of insurance - not a copay) that would come up during the time I was under their care (application charges, initial appointments, pre-op appointments, surgery day OR charges, and post-op visitation charges). If you need this surgery and are interested in using Dr. Weiss, you have to go through the physical therapy office they use, as the therapist assists him in surgery. My personal recommendation is to sit down (or call) the office manager (not the financial manager - she did not give accurate quotes) and have them explain each and every charge that will come up - from the initial visit to post-op visits. If you can, record the conversation so that there is some accountability, and make sure you take the person's name whom you are speaking with, the date and the time.

Myself with Vikki Sims, Physical Therapist
Having said all that, let me say once again that this was the only complaint I had the entire time I was going through this process for spinal surgery. The physical therapy office space itself was excellent - it was extremely spacious, was very clean, had great waiting rooms, restrooms, exercise space, individual patient rooms, private meeting rooms, etc. The staff was very professional. The actual Physical Therapist, Vikki, was absolutely AMAZING. She is known cross-country for her expertise of the Sacroiliac Joint and Spine. She had a fantastic bedside manner and was extremely knowledgeable. Vikki and Dr. Weiss work as a team in the Operating Room. Vikki meets with the patient prior to surgery to teach the patient and spouse, if applicable, how to set the Sacroiliac joints back into the groove of the joint, and has you watch a video about the surgery & gives you material to read. This better prepares the joint and anatomy surrounding the area for surgery. When surgery day does come, Vikki sets the SI joints into place in pre-op and after they move you onto the table. She double checks everything before they screw the joints in place. They also use radiofrequency guidance. I can't say enough to ensure you how excellent of a job Vikki does, all around.

Dr. Weiss was absolutely fantastic as well. His office was a clean facility, and his nurse was very personable and gave quick call-backs if I had questions. My initial exam with Dr. Weiss was to see if I was a candidate for surgery. The exam was extremely thorough, including an X-ray done in his office and by his staff (at the angles he wanted to see), and his nurse dictated notes throughout the exam. The initial visit lasted approximately 2 hours, and Dr. Weiss spent 45 minutes to 1 hour with us in the exam room. He went through every single option with us and answered any questions we had. He did not seem to be in a hurry, and I left feeling relieved that the option of surgery was finally on the table.

The hospital in which surgery took place was Northeast Regional Medical Center (NRMC) in Gainesville, GA, and it was a fantastic facility. Coming from a family of nurses, I have pretty high standards for healthcare. I've had plenty of experience with hospitals, and the only other hospital before my experience with NRMC to meet my high standards for healthcare was UABH (University of Alabama at Birmingham Hospital). I stayed for two nights at NRMC following my surgery and felt more than cared for, had my pain fairly well controlled, and knew I was in good hands, even when the doctor wasn't around. I was listed as a "spinal patient" with "spinal precautions" and couldn't get out of the bed alone, but nurses or techs would gladly come to my aid within 2-4 minutes of my request to get out of bed. The friendliness of the staff was absolutely fantastic. I never felt like an inconvenience, no matter the request. I rank this hospital stay as #1 in my experience.

I will soon post a blog about my 9-month post-op progress, which has been great compared to where I was prior to surgery. As always, please feel free to ask questions! My hopes are that this "review" helps those who are looking into this surgery know a little more about this option.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Spinal Surgery Follow-Up Visit

So today (Monday) was the day of my first surgery follow-up with my doctor & surgeon in Gainesville, GA - Dr. David Weiss with Specialty Orthopedics of North Georgia. I was ready to hear what Dr. Weiss thought regarding my progress (which I feel has been extraordinary) and ready to move forward with new things after being cleared to do a few simple things, like drive.

Dr. David Weiss with patient, Beth Anne Cochran
Day 11 Post-Op, 4.6.2015
The other goals for today's visit were:
To check the wounds
Remove stitches
Check ROM (range of motion)
Check pain originators in comparison with original complaints & findings in SI joint (did surgery help?)
Make sure patient is on-track to start physical therapy

As soon as he walked in and asked, "well, how have you been doing following surgery?", I gave Dr. Weiss a resoundingly clear answer that I had been feeling amazingly well, and having only the expected post-operative pain following surgery & just a little sciatica, as well as the normal pain from the stenosis, DDD (degenerative disc disease), bulging & torn discs, and scoliosis, which was not operated on - I have had little to none of the most severe sacroiliac joint pain (we are continuing to pray & believe that it does not return like before)!

I told him how I was walking daily with the walker. My next question was then "when can I ditch the walker?" He hesitated for a moment and looked at how many days post-op I was. As of today, I am only 11 Days Post-Op, so he seemed a little surprised that I was asking so soon. He made sure to tell me to not over-do and to listen to my body - when I am in pain, then I need to discontinue whatever activity I am doing (including physical therapy exercises that induce pain). He then told me I could phase out of using the walker as slowly as needed, but there is no rush. I was, of course, excited to hear this.

For those who are worried about me pushing too hard too quickly, I think your concerns are legit. And honestly, I might have pushed the envelope a little too far here and there through my recovery in small ways. But I also tend to catch myself fairly early on in those situations and realize what I am doing and to slow down.

For those reading my blog due to interest in the surgery, here is a list of just a few things I should NOT do following surgery unless in physical therapy protocol:

1. No sitting for longer than one hour without a standing break
2. No driving or car riding for more than one hour
3. No standing or walking for longer than 15 minutes
4. No bending or twisting at waist
5. Sleep with a pillow between knees
6. Sit straight with a pillow to the small of the back
7. No lifting anything over 10 lbs.
8. Avoid stair climbing. If you stair climb, lead with the stronger leg and take one step at a time
9. No single leg standing
10. Do not develop a walking program until at least 8 weeks post-op, and then only the directions of your physical therapist

Lifetime Restrictions:

1. No bungee jumping
2. No parachuting
3. No rock climbing
4. No step aerobics
5. No stairmaster
6. No chiropractic manipulation of the low back

As far as progress from the walker to unassisted walking, I know it will take time and a gradual process of working up my strength (18 months for a full recovery). And I am so excited to know that God's story of healing in my body is not yet complete....may God continue to restore me, from the inside out.

Isaiah 40:29 
He gives strength to the weary and increases power to the weak.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Spinal Surgery Recovery

Day 4 Post-Op (3.30.2015)
I know many of you are really curious to know how I have been doing regarding recovery from spinal surgery. I just want to share with you how well my recovery has been going. Every step of recovery has been on track with the average timeline of recovery for this particular surgery, if not better, and my pain has been purely post-op pain thus far (which has been well-managed for the most part).

I do not feel the old sacroiliac joint pain that I used to feel so
Cuddle-time with Brayden
Day 6 Post-Op
severely (the most severe pain I experienced, by far)! I can't describe the joy and gratitude to my Romancer, my Savior, my Healer, for the healing being brought upon my body - one day at a time.

Post-Op Day 5 (3.30.15)
I'm still taking it slow, and full rehabilitation will take at least 18 months just from this surgery. I am still using my walker for one more week via mandatory instructions from my surgeon/doctor, but am SO ready to walk unassisted in a few months, if not sooner. But simple things like pain relief in the SI (sacroiliac) joint of the spine are improving my quality of life in such an incredible way.

With the help of my generous daily volunteers, the boys and I have been able to go out a few times this week for fairly short outings, and it gives me a great opportunity to gain some strength in my legs and back by walking for short periods of time with the assistance of my walker. My doctor/surgeon wants me
Post-Op Day 7 (4.3.2015)
walking up to 15 minutes at a time with my walker once or twice daily. At this stage of recovery, the more I stay mobile, the more quickly I will heal. My first outing was on Wednesday, April 1st (Day 6 post-op), and I was definitely not afraid to be the slow-poke of the group.

I have my first physical therapy appointment on Friday, April 10th at Clinton Ray Ortho. & Sports Med. My follow-up with my surgeon/doctor is on Monday, April 6th at 11 to check on everything.

I can't wait to see what God is going to continue to do through this amazing opportunity!

Psalm 30:1-12
(Emphasis Mine)

I will exalt you, LORD, for you lifted me out of the depths
and did not let my enemies gloat over me.
Lord my God, I called to you for help, and you healed me.
You, LORD, brought me up from the realm of the dead;
you spared me from going down to the pit.

Sing the praises of the LORD, you his faithful people;
praise his holy name.
For his anger lasts only a moment, but his favor lasts a lifetime;
weeping may stay for the night, but rejoicing comes in the morning.

When I felt secure, I said, "I will never be shaken."
Lord, when you favored me, you made my royal mountain stand firm;
but when you hid your face I was dismayed.

To you, LORD, I called; to the LORD I cried for mercy:
"What is gained if I am silenced, if I go down to the pit?
Will the dust praise you? Will it proclaim your faithfulness?
Hear, LORD, and be merciful to me; LORD, be my help."

You turned my wailing into dancing; you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy,
that my heart may sing your praises and not be silent.
LORD my God, I will praise you forever.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Surgery Day is Coming Up Soon! What Should You Expect & How Can You Pray?

I've had lots of questions about my recovery time following surgery and what to expect for recovery.

The doctor/surgeon and physical therapist informed Rence and myself that full recovery would take 18 months. I am having 3 screws placed on each side of my pelvis bone and spine (SI joint) - 6 screws total - as well as a possible periformis release, which will involve cutting a muscle on each side of the pelvis that stabilizes the SI joint (screws will now stabilize mine) and, in my case, presses on the sciatic nerve. This causes numbness, tingling, burning, and additional pain in the pelvis and down the legs. Clipping this muscle would help with that.

I will be staying overnight in the hospital for at least one night, and hopefully returning home on Friday if my pain is managed well enough for the trip (there is really no way to know this - this is typically a very painful surgery, so we are praying for the ability to manage my pain well, especially on the 3-4 hour trip home).

I will be using a walker for 3 weeks, then transitioning slowly to walking unassisted & using my chair for long distances until I recover fully. I will start physical therapy locally at 3 weeks post-op. I will be absolutely unable to bend at the waist past a 90 degree angle when sitting, completely unable to bend at the waist when standing (weight will be on the joint), no twisting, no lifting more than 8 lbs (a container of milk - even that hurts right now), no climbing stairs or lifting my legs to a right angle while standing, no favoring one side/leg over the other (regarding weight-bearing), no standing still for more than 2 minutes without moving or resting the spine.

I hope this helps some of you who have been asking or just wanting to understand better. Please continue to pray for both Rence and myself as well as a smooth transition for the boys to childcare during surgery & hospital recovery time. Please also remember to pray for the medical care team (Dr.'s, nurses, techs, etc.) - that God will guide their hands and that this might be a time of miraculous healing in my life & circumstances. And if God has other plans, I praise Him still!

NOTE: If you would like to help us out with childcare or meals, we would be so very grateful. There are still many, many ways to serve that are listed on a sign-up calendar on Volunteer Spot. The link is http://vols.pt/hx3WP5

Here's how it works in 3 easy steps:

·    Visit this link to see our Sign-Up on VolunteerSpot: http://vols.pt/hx3WP5 
·    You will be asked to enter your email address before entering our customized volunteer calendar. This is so that we can contact you for further details if you sign up. Note: VolunteerSpot does not share your email address with anyone. If you prefer not to use your email address, please contact Rence or Beth Anne, and they can sign you up manually.
·    Simply look over the calendar and the descriptions of needs listed. If you see something you feel you can fulfill, simply click "sign-up" and follow the prompts. Rence and I will be notified through email that you have volunteered. NOTE: There is always the flexibility to swap with another person at a later time if needed - if a cancellation is needed, please let either Rence or myself know.

You have successfully signed up (no log-out from the site is needed)! If you have any questions and would like to help out in any capacity, please feel free to call.

We can't tell you how much we appreciate those who help out in such a large capacity in such a big time of need in our lives. Thank you for being the hands and feet of Christ!

Mental Illness and the Church