Surgery, Master’s program, and home

Sorry it has been forever! I know I have been bad! There has just been so much going on that I haven’t gotten a chance to update y’all on recovery and school!

So here goes…

Last time we left off, I was having trouble attending school full time, so I had to drop to part time.  Holding up your head all day is exhausting haha.  Even going part time was pretty tasking though.  I was taking Norco (Vicodin) for pain for the few months but then had to be taken off and put on Tylenol 3.  So that was my first withdrawal, it was pretty ugly but the Tylenol 3 helped some.  Tylenol 3 is basically Tylenol + codeine but that was definitely not enough to stop my pain.  It was hard to move or deal with getting up every day.  Around Thanksgiving, I had to be weaned of Tylenol 3 as well…that was a nightmare. Shakes, sweats, stomach upset, you name it.
But remarkably, the pain got better when I got off of the meds! How ironic is that?  So I started doing some digging and found this article: http://www.instituteforchronicpain.org/understanding-chronic-pain/complications/opioid-induced-hyperalgesia

What I found is a condition known as Opioid-Induced Hyperalgesia. Basically, sometimes, in some people, prolonged pain med (opioid) use can cause the body to actually become hypersensitive to the pain.  The difference between this condition and having increased tolerance is that with tolerance, you have to keep taking more of the drug to reduce pain, but with OIH, you have to take LESS of the med to reduce the pain.   It is not clear why this is or what causes it but it is becoming more and more common.  I showed the article to my neurologist and he agreed that in some cases that definitely can happen.

I did not get as much relief from just the cervical fusion as hoped,  not because it didn’t work, but because I need my lumbar done as well.  The PA and I hypothesized that the second would provide marked relief, so we decided to proceed with that for the next semester.

This past semester ended a little rockier than expected but I was not upset; it was one of those times you were just glad to get through it.  So I met with the Dean of the University to figure out what to do about next semester.  I was going to have to fly home to have  my surgery, leaving my cats and my apartment with my boyfriend to watch out for.  Then, hopefully, after about 7 weeks, I would be able to be driven  back and have my boyfriend take care of me in my apartment.  It is supposed to be a 9 month recovery, so I needed to figure out my plan for school.

So the Dean and VP both sat down with me and were absolutely amazing, a refreshing experience after a little tussle with student services.  They both agreed I should take all the time I needed to recover, which stressed me some because while it behooved my health, it meant an additional 7 months out of school.   Then the VP suggested a Masters in Nutrition program that was offered completely online and I could take concurrently with my DC!  What a great plan, as I would probably have gone that route eventually, it would definitely provide me something to do in the recovery period! I was very happy they had recommended this because it helped me feel like I was still making progress instead of losing more time because of this stupid accident.

So they got me all set up and financial aid worked out and I started my nutrition classes in January.

Here comes the complication:  Insurance companies suck!

We had been working with the insurance company pretty much continuously since my last surgery in August. They knew about the accident, my diagnosis, and that I would likely need both surgeries.  In October, we had to jump through a few hoops because they said I needed an additional doctor’s appointment just for the lumbar saying that I needed the surgery.  It was really a technicality because the doc knew that, I knew that, it was in his notes…but they forced us to do it.  So I flew back for a weekend to have the additional appointment in the middle of the semester.  But, it got us the all clear form the insurance company so we all moved forward with the planned surgery.     I planned out the next 7 months of my life around this surgery, knowing I would have to continue schooling to pay for my apartment and commute back and forth. It all worked out fine until one week before surgery.

I had flown in for the surgery and tp have a couple of tests run beforehand.  The day after I got in, I went to my presurgery/ 5 month follow-up appointment with the neurologist.   He did not have good news: the insurance all of a sudden was denying coverage of the surgery, saying I did not meet the psychological clearances necessary for it; well duh I didn’t meet them, I’d NEVER been told I needed them!   They were now demanding I get psychological clearance for surgery (i.e. that depression or some other mental condition was causing my pain) and that I attend 10-12 sessions of cognitive behavioral therapy!  The doctor was flummoxed; he said he had never had such an extensive stipulation on having this surgery before. In addition, why was it not required for the cervical surgery? Why had it not been brought up in October when we were given the Go Ahead? Why are we being given new requirements 1 WEEK BEFORE surgery? This was going to set me back, at minimum, another 5 weeks (assuming I could get into 2 sessions a week of therapy), another semester, and kee[ me from my apartment, cats, and boyfriend for at least an additional month! It was incredibly frustrating! Of course, calling the insurance company is fruitless because no one you can speak to has any authority to do anything, but one guy did recommend we appeal it and gave us the information on how to do so.  So my doctor and I agreed that we would appeal while moving ahead with the clearance and behavioral sessions in the meantime, so as  not to waste any more time.

As of today, my appeal was received about 3 weeks ago and is being worked on, I have attended my psych clearance session and they are waiting on the results for the insurance (should get those hopefully by the end of this week), and just biding my time until then. Pretty sure the psychiatrist did not think I was crazy, but I guess we will see, I have a follow-up on the 19th at which time we will discuss what is next.

As far as school, the nutrition program has kept me sane, but is not into the fun stuff yet. For the most part, it is stuff I already know, but that’s because I have read tons on nutrition on my own time. So far, that means, STRAIGHT A’s! Yay! Haha!

I spoke to the Dean about the situation and possibly needing anther semester off and he, and the VP, assured me not to worry and just keep them updated…they are awesome! It also looks like I will be almost done with the Masters in Nutrition by the time I go back to the DC program, so that’s a plus.

SO that should bring you up to date on the chaos! I am just waiting now and as soon as I know what’s next I will let y’all know! Thanks for reading and if you have any thoughts or comments (such as how the insurance companies suck…) please let me know!

Thanks lovelies! Until next time…

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One thought on “Surgery, Master’s program, and home

  1. Pingback: Lumbar Spinal Fusion and Learning to Hope | Taylor Rae Luster- Flights of Fancy

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