Friday, August 29, 2014

Procedure #25 & 26 Complete

As some of you may know, Monday morning (August 25th) was the day/time of my procedure at St. Vincent's in Birmingham with the neurology practice. This procedure was simple, but the purpose of the procedure important - they put me under general anesthesia and use radio-frequency guidance equipment in order to locate the sacroiliac joint, then penetrate each joint with a long needle and inject both an immediate numbing agent (wears off within a day) and a long-acting steroid medication for long-term relief of pain & inflammation (begins to take effect within 6-10 days, on average). Some people see improvements with these injections and some do not. This set of spinal injections will make #25, with the vast majority of the procedures not making a large enough percentage of improvement in pain levels.

So why the sacroiliac joint? First off, I have what they refer to as "sacroiliac joint dysfunction syndrome". This is either the over-loosening or over-tightening of the joint(s) that causes pain and improper function of the joint(s). Both of mine are effected, although the left side is much worse. The injection serves a diagnostic purpose under insurance purposes before I can consider the next step of treatment, which would be nerve ablation followed by possible surgery. Secondly, the majority of my fairly-severe pain levels comes from the sacroiliac joint region. The injections help target the source of that pain. I have had one set of sacroiliac injections before (by another Dr.), and it helped tremendously. Although the effects are temporary, I am very hopeful and prayerful that this set of injections will do the same.

Getting ready for bed after
procedure #25
The procedure needed to be performed twice by the same doctor in a fairly short time span in order for insurance to consider possible nerve ablation (which is more effective & longer acting) on the sacroiliac joint; therefore, I will go back in on September 24th to have the second series of these injections done. We were surprised to hear that I would have to have a second set of injections (let alone in a month's time) and each time I go in is a $150 co-pay. Rence doesn't get a pay check this month ("Yay" for the lifestyle of a teacher! ;D), and we are very tight on money as it is, so please pray with us that God will provide financially for the procedure. Please also pray that Rence and I will trust completely that He will provide for our every need. He's never, ever failed to provide for us before. This time will be no different.

 After nerve ablation, I will be a candidate for surgery on the sacroiliac joints. Basically, we are jumping through the hoops right now. If it were up to me, I would skip straight to the nerve ablation, as the risks are not high. But as we all know, insurance doesn't work that way, so....on with the tedious, arduous process we go... ;)

Home after procedure #25, loving on Brayden
So the procedure itself on Monday went very well. They took me back to the Operating Room, got me situated, put me under, got the procedure done, got me in recovery, and got me out of the office fairly quickly. I had some tremors (which can be a typical side effect from any spinal injection) for just a little bit, as well as feeling slightly light-headed at times, but it passed fairly soon after getting some food into my system. I did have a pretty bad migraine all day, which was triggered by the spinal injection, and I wasn't able to take aspirin, which is included in Excedrin Migraine (I usually rely on this to target my migraines). I was able to get back home, with the help of my friend & "driver" for the day (thanks Amanda Thielsen - you rock!! - I guess it helped that you got Krispy Kreme on the way home ;D), as my amazing hubby (I love you, Rence Cochran!) was working so hard this week. We then went to get my babies from their sweet babysitter for the day. I can't say thank you enough for offering to help me out with keeping the boys, Jennifer Clayton! You have a handful of children of your own to take care of, and you have always offered to help. They had a blast on Monday! It felt great to leave them in your hands, and I knew they would be in great care - I didn't have to worry! I also have to add that our Sunday School group from First Baptist Church of Oxford represented by simply checking in on me after my procedure. I'm not used to that, and it meant a lot. There was genuine care and concern about how I was doing, and that says a lot about the love of Christ manifested in the church as a whole. We've seen other examples, as well, but this one stuck-out. Thank you, Doug Strautman, for representing the class and checking in on how I was doing with genuine care and concern. One text/call can make the world of a difference! Be encouraged! (Thank you, also, to Anna Keefe, for checking in on me! I have amazing friends & family!) <--- Thanks for bearing through my mini-thank you speech. ;)

Post-procedure, I had to keep the pressure off of my spine for the rest of the day, especially, but preferably for the next full day as well. Rence was working (Monday & Tuesday - both full days), and I had to take care of the boys, so I had to take the instructions to "stay off my feet" with a grain of salt. I used my wheelchair around the house constantly (I usually use my crutches or nothing while in the house unless I am hurting unusually badly). Also, the spinal injections cause a huge spike in pain levels for most people. That has definitely always been the case for me...since the very 1st of spinal injections. So, my pain has been pretty rough this week, overall (and with that comes the increased fatigue). But, I have thankfully & finally been overcoming that hurdle within the past 2 days (Thursday & Friday). I am praying that I will begin to feel some results of the injections very soon.

So many people have been through SO much more, and I keep my eyes focused on the fact and hope that God has a beautiful plan through it all. I have been blessed to see some of that beautiful plan unfold....and to think that what I have seen is just an inkling of what He sees & uses of our pain & hardships. Remember - nothing can touch us except what has passed through His plans of approval (paraphrased - Hannah Whitael Smith). His plans are to prosper us and not to harm us. But also remember that God's concern for our spiritual health overrides His concern for our physical well-being (he is still concerned with both - but if He has to pick one over the other, it will be concern for our spiritual health), and many times, we find a level of intimacy with our Lord in the valley of illness that cannot be found in prosperity. I praise Him for bringing me to His feet, and using me as a vessel of service for His kingdom, for He works through the pain.         

UPDATE (posted on Facebook on Sunday, August 30th):As many of you know (and have been remembering prayerfully), I had a set of injections (2) on my sacroiliac joints under general anesthesia & radio-frequency guidance on Monday morning at St. Vincent's. The results always vary on each patient, and we were prayerful that this set of injections would be successful for diagnostic purposes as well for pain relief. The effect kicks in on days 6-10 post-procedure. Friday night, I was beginning to wonder if I was having a really good night or if the injection was beginning to take effect. Saturday during the day was the usual pain levels, but I had some relief in the SI joint last night as well. hopes were getting higher by the day. Today, I have had a lot of relief in the SI joint as well - about an 70-80% difference in pain in that joint (bilateral). This is a tremendous blessing! To God be ALL the glory!!!! Thank you for all the prayers! You are all loved & cherished. Please continue to pray that this injection lasts for at least the month. My next injection will be on Sept. 24, then hopefully we can look a more permanent option like nerve ablation (not surgery, and fairly low-risk procedure). 

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Lord, You Are My Strength

I had an interesting, but great day yesterday. It didn't start out wonderfully, but that all changed. I wanted to share with you my journal entry from last night explaining the little miracles from God sent throughout my day.


Journal Entry from August 22nd, 2014:

Father, today is such a testimony to how You manifest Your strength in us. As I rose from my sleep this morning after a rough and painful night, I was beyond tired. The boys made their precious, yet rambunctious presence known as they ran all over their room, waiting as patiently as a 3 year old knows how, for Mom to greet her babies and feed them breakfast. Rence was already at work at JSU, as usual on the weekdays, so all responsibility was on me.

I lay in bed trying to manipulate my sacroiliac (SI) joints so they would stretch (painful, but effective) before I stood from bed, allowing for better and less painful mobility from the stiffness in the joints. As I lie there with increased pain & a constant state of fatigue (different from being groggy; caused by my diagnosis of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome) from the typical morning, my thoughts focused on how I was going to make it through the day while caring for two toddlers. I began to pray that You, God, would give me the strength and energy needed to get through the day and accomplish things that needed to be done.

As You so often do, You, my Precious Lord, far exceeded my expectations (why do we NOT expect more of a God who can accomplish ANYTHING?!). Despite the increased fatigue & pain, I pushed myself to get out of bed and get the boys ready for the day. Within the hour, I began to feel relief of both the fatigue & pain. I knew it was You, Lord - the hand of God - at work. Here are some things I would be able to accomplish on a good day (regarding pain & energy levels): I might be able to get a few minor chores done around the house or run out for an errand or two. Today, however, I was able to tailor/sew modifications to maternity clothing given to me (we make pennies stretch around here). This tailoring makes the clothes appear non-maternity (to the eye) when complete, yet the comfort factor is still there. I finished four shirts and four pants. I was then able to take the boys out to the Oxford Lake Park playground and let them play for a good hour or so, followed by an hour-long trip to Sam's Club for a grocery run. We returned home at 8:30 to get a bath, read a book as a family, and get tucked in for bed by 9:00. 

Father, I am convinced that my situation of chronic illness and pain has brought me closer to You, and for that, I praise Your wonderful, sovereign Name! I can't help but think of 2 Corinthians 12:9-10 when I write this journal entry.

2 Corinthians 12:9-10
My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. For when you are weak, I am strong.

I was so very weak this morning - there was nothing in me to continue the day. You stepped in (per my request) and You were my strength. So many times, people ask "how do you do it with twins and a disability?" My answer is "God gives me the strength." I now realize how wrong that answer is. Father God, You ARE my strength. God IS my strength when I cannot carry on. I praise You for showing me my fault, and even better, showing me Your strength yet again today. May You always be the One glorified!


I love praying the names of God (and, of course, knowing their root meanings). I looked up some of the Hebrew names of God used from scripture to praise Him for His strength & sufficiency. Here is what I found (and loved):

El Sali (God of Strength)
Elohim Mauzi (God of Strength) - Psalm 43:2
My Strong Tower (Proverbs 18:10)
El Shaddai (All-Sufficient One)

May His Name be praised!

Mental Illness and the Church