I finally went into the hospital yesterday after feeling like something was very wrong. It's been a long time since I've been to the hospital, and now I know why. The doctor was suspicious and condescending, asking me different questions in hope of getting a different answer, I suppose. Shortly after being asked if I had insurance, (which I don't), I was whisked off from the emergency room bed into a waiting room. Finally, after an hour and a half, I was taken into the ex-ray room to have an ex-ray of my hip, to see if it was still in place or had loosened. Many of you know of my odyssey with my hip implant, and many of you don't. I was one of the lucky ones, replaced hip in 2005, because of a birth defect, but more than that, I was given a Biomet M2a, which at the time, had become the rage of the orthopedic world. Shortly after the operation, I knew something was wrong, as I had a very hard time recovering, metal in my body was not playing well.
I have been reluctant to write about it, I don't know out of embarrassment, or the fact that everyone in my family seems very tired of hearing about it. Before anyone knew the problems these hips would cause, I was expected to just accept it, even though I suddenly had pain I never had before, even though my brain had become clouded and confused, even though I became depressed and despondent. I was finally able to adequately write about it in a poem, 'Buffalo Heading North', about a buffalo who had begun to limp, realizing that his time in and out of the herd could possibly be coming to a close.
A little over a year ago, I decided, (like many of us do) that my health was going to be entirely up to me, that if I was going to change what was happening to me, and no one was going to come to my rescue. At the time, my life it seemed, had hit a bottom that I couldn't fathom, manifesting in some ways I could understand, but in many ways that were entirely foreign. For example, I had always been a veracious reader, through bad times and good times, never straying from a good book. I found that after I had this operation, I could not focus on a book. My teaching of eight years at the time began to slip, as if its direction was everywhere at once. Some of this was due to the medication they put me on, which is what they do if they can't figure out why you are experiencing pain. Two years later, I would have to leave my job, telling everyone that I was off on new and exciting adventures, which I had convinced myself were true. Deep down, I knew that something was very wrong.
Being a person that was not new to the idea of re-inventing one's self, I worked hard at doing this very thing, something I had done many times in my life. It worked for awhile in varying degrees, but it would always come back to a malaise I simply could not arrest, and I was getting a bit desperate. There were many times that I thought it must be the medication I was taking, so I would wean myself off, and find that I could stand the pain for awhile, and then I would come to a place where I would need respite from being in such awful pain, so then I sought to use it as a means of when it would get 'too bad'. This would work for awhile, and then I would be right back to a similar place, for your body begins to build up a tolerance for any pain medication, and you will always need more and more to arrest it, and in the final analysis, it never really gets 'at' the problem. When I would decide to wean myself and come off the pain medication, I would undergo such anxiety, that I would have to take in a little whisky, but then that was never a good idea, because of my alcoholic gene. It would always start out okay, but then I would find myself three days later, coming off of alcohol with worse anxiety than before. How could I explain this to anyone? The fact is, I couldn't. I know myself well enough to understand that in order to survive, I could not drink, and so after getting off everything, the problem was still very much there.
And then I started noticing commercials on television about the Depauy metal hips, and the failure of so many. Because I had a Biomet hip, I didn't think much off it, until I began to see commercials about this hip as well. Metallosis. Metal in the blood. Little pieces of the metal shearing into the bloodstream which cause a series of symptoms that mimic blood poisoning. Depression, malaise, confusion, inability to focus, chronic pain, destruction of the tissue around the hip, rearrangement of the spinal column, change in eyesight and hearing. The list is lengthy, and now I started getting answers. My hip was failing, and in fact, had failed immediately after having it in, my body was too sensitive to the metal. I had in affect, become a different person, not only to others, but to myself as well.
Many days of research confirmed my fears, and the answers I began to understanding were both infuriating and liberating. The lobby of these hip implant companies had convinced the FDA to allow these new hips in patients, without the benefit of adequate testing. They were implanted, especially in younger patients, (that made me feel good!) but they really didn't know that all these problems would begin to happen. Many people, I found out, had to have revisions immediately, and many in a few short years. For me, this reality and ability left, as I had to quit my job thus losing my insurance. So, in short, I have a device that is making me sicker by the day, with no means or funding to get it out.
I contacted a law firm that confirmed my research and suspicion, and have spent over a year now trying to get funding and compensation to get this metal hip out of me. How does one re-invent one's self when the problem is in something that is in your body that you can do noting about until it is removed? That is the odyssey. That is the alien. I've explained it that way. Like in the movie, Alien, when the alien suddenly emerges from the robot's stomach, to stare horrifically at the humans. I have had many a nightmare in this genre from the thought of it.
Although there is relief in knowing that your suspicions are confirmed, it does not mean that the problem is solved, (as I've said, its been over a year), but what it does mean is that they will eventually have to pay for it. Recently, the law firm has confirmed that they are securing medical funding for the many people who have gone through the very same thing that I have, the downfall, the loss of job, insurance, and the anxious feelings of knowing that something is wrong. The good news in the eventual compensation is good, however, nothing paid out can rectify the loss of seven years of suffering because of this, and so in that, it is infuriating and frustrating.
Not only does it change the trajectory of your life, but before you can prove it to family and friends, there is a loss of trust that goes with it, for so many people just want you to be who you were before, and you can't do it, no matter how much muscle memory you have, no matter how astute you are at the art of reinvention, no matter how you want to be well.
Yesterday was a confirmation of my suspicions, only it was in the medical field. And I should quantify by saying that emergency doctors are not expected to understand all the subtleties of a hip replacement and its symptoms in failure, but the condescending doctor that I had should be taken to a room somewhere and explained to, the nature of really listening and believing in a patient. Perhaps many of them are jaded from the many patients they must see on a daily basis, the grind of one medical problem after another, but in my experience, and having had time to watch, listen, and 'be a patient', I was struck by the awful process of our medical community. I was struck by its impersonal nature, by its shear lack of compassion, as if emotion has nothing to do with the problem, but yes, it does, and it all works together. I did in fact, explain to the doctor what my experience had been, and unabashedly, (but as gently as I could) tell her some of my own medical prognosis after being a student of it for so many years in my own body. She looked very confused, and I could tell she wanted to be anywhere away from what I was telling her. I do understand that the gathering of data is the main proof of a medical condition, and my data was…okay, however, she said, that my white blood cell count was extremely high, which led to my belief and confirmation that it probably has always been high, because my system is fighting something my body is rejecting, like an infection. So, another little bit of information that confirms my medical issue. They always start with the blood when they don't know what is wrong, but in an emergency room, once they find the data, and if the data proves something wrong, they want your primary care doctor to find that, so they send you home as fast as they can. So, I found out after a whole day of agony, that my white blood cell count is very high. Now, what can I do? Another odyssey to face, even though I know the problem, but can do nothing about it.
So, how do I wait? How do I function? How do I survive while waiting to have this alien removed? How do I explain this to people? The very real understanding of human nature reveals itself in these situations. There are very few real saints out there who can help. I get that, and I just hope that I'm not left jaded myself, but I can see how it can happen. Writing about it helps, and I haven't written about this in awhile, and not with as much explanation. No one wants to be the buffalo with a limp, the one that nature is failing, the one that the wolf is watching for. Getting older is hard enough to see this break down in nature, let alone doing it with a limp. Muscle memory allows me to hide the limp that would naturally occur, but don't think I don't know its there, for I must get 'from here to there' and coming out living on the other side of it. Life is a series of triumphs and defeats, and the fact is, suffering. But how long does one have to suffer before there is relief? How long, O' Lord, how long? Sadly, this suffering's occurrence is once again a problem of the greedy nature of men. They could not wait to get these metal hips into people. They could not wait to make the millions of dollars they have already made. In the end, will they be made to pay for the wrong they committed? There is no way that I can know this, but I do know I won't give up until this odyssey is complete…