Real talk

A lot of this blog is about my journey as a caretaker to my dad, but I’ve also posted some about me trying to get healthy and focus on myself, which I have been doing with the #ShapeGoal40 challenge. It’s been a pretty bumpy ride because of having a head cold, now being on muscle relaxers for a pulled muscle in my back. I wanted to share a bit of my year last year and why doing this challenge is important to me.

A few years after losing my mom to a brain aneurysm I started to get this intense pressure in my head with changing positions, such as kneeling to standing. I didn’t think much of it or mention it to my doctor because I was terrified of finding out if something was seriously wrong with me. I needed to make sure my dad was taken care of, so I just let it go. The head pressure started to become more frequent over the year and started to have headaches almost every day. I did my best to just push through, but last year things got kind of scary for me. I was starting to get dizzy spells, and focusing at work was becoming increasingly more difficult. Within a three week span last year I ended up in the emergency room because of the headaches. One of those trips was me leaving work by ambulance because of how dizzy I was and how much pain my head was in.

The first hospital visit they tried Imitrex, which kicked in within fifteen minutes and I felt so much better, but the next day I was miserable again and the headaches seemed to be getting worse. The subsequent ER visits included a CT of my brain and an MRI/MRV of my brain. Thankfully nothing showed up on those, which was a relief, but my doctor was still at a loss as to what could be causing my headaches. I was referred to Neurology and spent about 10 minutes with the neurologist for a consult that was scheduled for 40 minutes. After replying to a message on if they met my needs, I marked no. I left without any answers or even a plan to help the headaches. The nurse talked to the neurologist and I was put on amitriptyline, which is mainly used as an antidepressant , but has also been found to help migraines.

You may be wondering why I’m sharing this and there’s an answer. Since starting the #ShapeGoal40 I’ve been eating so much better and drinking more water, but haven’t really had any of my weight come off. The head cold and the pulled muscle in my back have been small set backs, but then I remembered being told that a side effect of amitriptyline is weight gain. The hospital where I doctor at uses MyChart for patient’s to access their medical records online and I went back to see when I was started on the amitriptyline, which was 08/23/17. At that time I weighed 189. 32 days later at a follow up appointment with my primary doctor, 09/25/17, I weighed 202. Almost a 15 pound increase in weight in a little over a month time span. Since then my weight has been gradually increasing, even with eating better, drinking more water, and trying to be less sedentary at work. I think the medication is what is preventing me from losing weight. I’m eating enough of what I’m supposed to be eating, plus having healthy snacks throughout the day. I see my doctor in a couple of weeks and I’m going to see if I can trial going off of the amitriptyline to see if that helps me lose weight and to see if my migraines come back or not. If they do I will see what other medication I can try, but having this realization tonight was something I needed.

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Life after losing my mom

I figured with today’s post I would get back on track a little with being a caregiver and life after losing my mom. My mom passed on 03/17/2011 and just two days later on the 19th it was my dad’s birthday. Losing my mom was such a shock to me that I barely ate for about three days. I even went out to get my dad a birthday cake and didn’t eat any of it, which is not like me because I love cake.

Losing my mom was a hard transition for me because I didn’t get a change to say goodbye to her. At the time that I lost my mom, my dad worked overnight and even though I was in my early 20’s when I lost her, I went to the local community college and so living at home was easier, but I have never spent a night alone in my house. When my dad would leave for work I would start to hear noises and things that really made me paranoid. I was lucky that my dad worked at a hotel and so for a couple of months he let me go into work with him and use a room to sleep in. There were railroad crews that would come in and would request a room with two beds, but there would only be one person in the room, so I would sleep in the bed that hadn’t been used. Eventually I got used to being home alone overnight and it helped that I had my cat Footer at the time to help with the transition.

Later in the year my dad started experiencing some chest pain, so we took him into the emergency room. They did testing and thankfully he wasn’t having a heart attack, but was having angina. I was relieved that it wasn’t a heart attack because when I was in high school he had one and when he went to the ER for that, the next morning they did open heart surgery. What was originally supposed to be a triple bypass ended up being a quadruple bypass. So while this time around it wasn’t a heart attack, they did an echocardiogram, which is essentially an ultrasound of your heart. It allows the cardiologists to see how the heart is pumping and to see if there is a good ejection fraction (ejection fraction measures the percentage of blood leaving your heart each time it contracts). the echocardiogram also takes a look at the heart valves to make sure they are working as they should  and that there is no regurgitation, or blood backing up into the heart. Once the results of dad’s echocardiogram came back it showed that his mitral heart valve was leaking pretty bad and that he would need to have open heart surgery to replace the valve.

Upon hearing this news I was such a mess. This would be the first major surgery that my dad would have without my mom being with us. And I know there are risks with any surgery, but open heart surgery is a whole other ballpark. surgery was scheduled for January of 2012. I was worried that I would lose him, but at the same time, I had confidence that he would pull through. The same surgeon that did his quadruple bypass was the one that did the mitral valve replacement. He was great at keeping me informed during the entire surgery. I owe so much to the surgeon for all he did for my dad and for allowing me to not lose both parents not even a year apart.

While I wish this was where the journey of being a caregiver ended, this was only the beginning of my almost seven year journey as his caretaker.