Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Puddy Tats Turn Tail on Thai Tuna

A few months ago, our cats went on a pseudo-hunger strike. 

After years of happily gobbling down every bite of Friskies tuna wet food that was offered, all twelve of the kitties we feed simultaneously refused to eat anything containing their formerly favorite fish.  And when even feral kitties -- whose choice of entrees is usually limited to lizards and bugs -- suddenly turn their noses up at any type of canned food, you know something’s up.

We looked at the labels of the remaining cans for a clue as to what changed.  The only difference we were able to discern between the universally scorned tuna products and the ones our kitties would eat was that the new cans were now labeled, “Pet Food Only.”  (I don’t want to think about why it was necessary to add that disclaimer.  Ewww.)  Everything else looked the same.

So we called Friskies.

It turns out that the folks at Friskies used to make all of their canned tuna cat food in American Samoa with fish caught near the Friskies plant.  But late last year, the Friskies plant was destroyed when a tsunami hit American Samoa.  Twenty two people lost their lives.

Not wanting to leave their customers without tuna cat food, Friskies contracted with a company in Thailand to take over production while the plant in Samoa was rebuilt.  Thai cat food producers use Thai tuna, which, according to kitties all over the United States, is apparently vastly inferior to the Samoan tuna to which they have become accustomed.  At the urging of the customer service rep, we looked at the label of the snubbed tuna wet food again, and sure enough, “Product of Thailand” was printed just above the bar code.

The mystery has been solved.

The good news for Friskies tuna-loving kitties everywhere is that the plant in American Samoa is back up and running, and the first batches of Samoan tuna cat fud will be back on the shelves in about a month. 

The good news for us is that the fine folks at Friskies are sending us a coupon for a free case of canned cat food.

Sunday, June 06, 2010

Being a Crip is a Full-Time Job

I was struck today by the realization that way too much of my time every week is spent doing crip-related tasks, i.e. things I wouldn’t have to do, or could take care of a of faster, if I wasn’t disabled. 

It was my meds that started this train of thought barreling down the tracks.

I take an insane amount of drugs every day -- between prescription and over-the-counter meds and supplements, it’s somewhere in the neighborhood of three dozen pills, some liquids, and a couple of puffs of inhaled breathing meds.  Somehow I’ve managed to work all this into a four-times-a-day dosing schedule, but when you add in the time it takes for me to refill the weekly pill boxes I use, get prescriptions filled, and most of all, the time I spend waiting for meds (especially pain meds) to kick-in, I spend a lot of hours dealing with drugs. (If any DEA officials, my doctors, or my pharmacist is reading this, please note that reads “dealing with drugs”, not “dealing drugs.”  Can‘t be too careful about that distinction these days.)

The big time suck, of course, is personal care.  I feel some days like I spend half my life tending to stuff that used to take me maybe an hour a day total.  Okay, make that an hour and a half -- I drink a lot of water and have a really tiny bladder, so I’ve always made more than the average number of trips to the loo every day.  In the before-chair days, I could jump in the shower, wash and condition my hair, shave the pits and legs, get out and dry off, apply lotion/makeup/deodorant, brush my hair, get dressed and be out the door in just under an hour.

These days I’m lucky if I can get in and out of the shower in 30 minutes.  The assisted transfers from my chair to my shower bench add a few minutes in each direction, as does getting some of my gimpier body parts *cough*righthandandarm*cough* to cooperate with what I need them to do.  Even taking Navy showers, necessary both because I can’t just step out of the shower spray to soap up and to conserve water, doesn’t seem to speed up the process.  One of the things I miss most about being a walkie is the ability to take a quick, unassisted shower whenever I feel like it. 

The time spent showering, however, is nothing compared to the time involved with getting dressed and taking care of non-bathing personal care and hygiene. (Did you hear that noise? That was the sound of every ’plegic reading this simultaneously saying, “No kidding!”)  The damage to my spinal cord means it takes longer for me to get dressed and undressed (even with some help), brush my hair and teeth (don‘t get me started on the subject of flossing), and putting on make up and jewelery.  And without revealing TMI, it’s geometrically increased the time I spend attending to the call of nature. 

All that’s probably intuitive.  But what most TABs (shorthand for temporarily able bodied) don’t realize how much time and effort I, and many people who use wheelchairs, put into keeping our skin healthy.  If you’re not diligent, sitting for upwards of 12 hours a day, every day, can do some serious damage to your body’s largest organ -- pressure, friction, trapped moisture, and the most-dreaded of all for me, wrinkles, bunches, seams and elastic, are all  bombs with hair triggers.  Add to that the problems that can result when you’re not able to tell if you’ve developed a blister or cut yourself, and you’ll start to get a picture of why I devote hours each week to checking for and trying to prevent skin breakdown.  It’s worth every second I spend doing it, though, because the primary treatment for pressure damage is staying off of the area until it heals.  An hour a day of shifting my weight off of this, lotioning that, and having a look at those other things beats the hell out of laying on my side in bed for weeks, months, or even years at a time.

The rest of the extra time comes from ordinary tasks like getting me and my chair in and out of the car, preparing food, etc.  Each activity may only take a few minutes longer than before, but those minutes can add up pretty quickly.

All totaled, I figure disability-related tasks eat up almost 40 extra hours of my time every week.  Who the heck knew being a crip would be a full-time job?

I stand sit in awe of all you ‘plegics out there, especially you quads, who also hold down a job and/or take care of a family.  I have no idea how you find the energy to do it all.

Friday, June 04, 2010

An Open Letter to Emergency Department Physicians and Nurses

Dear Cynics,

I get it -- you’re burnt out from dealing with the seemingly endless parade of drug-seekers and addicts who march through the exam rooms in your Emergency Department. I really don’t blame you. I’m certain I’d struggle with keeping the more acerbic side of my personality in check if I was forced to listen to a relentless barrage of demands for narcotic pain medication from people too stupid or too stoned to realize how absurd their stories sound. It must be hard to not get cynical after seeing the same faces give the same thinly-veiled reasons for why they need opioids week in and week out.

But even if 95 percent of the people who come to you with complaints of severe pain are just hoping to score their next fix, that doesn’t give you the right to treat the five percent of us who really are dealing with unrelenting pain like shit.

Yes, Virginia, there really is such a thing a chronic pain. Although that description has become so associated with drug-seekers that most ER staff can’t say it without rolling their eyes, some forms of pain -- most notably central pain -- truly are relentless. And if you bothered to spend a few minutes talking to me about my medical history and what I’m going through instead of writing me off as soon as you see “pain” listed as one of my chief complaints, you might be able to understand that.

No matter how bad I‘m hurting, I make every effort to be a patient patient and to treat you with respect when I have no choice but to visit your ER. Is it really asking too much to expect you to extend that same courtesy to me?

The last thing in the world I want to do -- except keep enduring the agony I’m in -- is to ask for your help in getting the pain back down to a level where I can hang on for a little while longer. Coming to the ER means investing hours of time, risking ridicule and scorn because you prejudicially decide that I’m either faking or a junkie, and, after all that, getting sent home in as much pain as I started with but even more frustrated and desperate because you‘ve denied me treatment and taken away my only hope for relief.

Although you may not believe it, I hate the drug-seekers as much or more than you do. Prescription drug addicts are the reason I have such a hard time finding doctors willing to treat me, and am forced to sign 15 page contracts that leave me with no rights at all but allow the doctor to terminate treatment at any time for any reason. The junkies are the reason that even after five years of total compliance (i.e. no early refill requests, no “lost” prescriptions, and no filling prescriptions anywhere else), my pharmacist still treats me with suspicion. And as I’ve explained here, they’re the reason why you’ll only see me when I am at rock-bottom and utterly desperate.

So the next time your triage nurse hands you a chart for someone in chronic pain, try to put your addict burnout aside -- or at least on hold. There’s a chance that your next patient may be someone like me whose pain is physical, real, and overwhelming, and who legitimately needs something more than "Tylenol…Number Three.” If you treat me with respect, and listen to what I have to say with an open mind instead of through a filter of inherent distrust, I promise I’ll do the same.