Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Carmella Needs a Miracle
Today Carmella saw Dr. Muller about her right front leg. I was thinking mostly about the stem cell transplant when I went in there, and getting the EKG so she can get on the medication, Procainamide, for the myoclonus but now there is an even more immediate situation with her worsening wrist. This is the second vet in the past week to tell me that she is going to end up lame if she continues to jerk. The continuous impact is making it worse and worse and the wrist if left untreated will end up lying flat on the ground.  Also, then her left leg could go bad in the process of trying to compensate for the right, and then she'd be in really bad shape.

If it hasn't already, the ligament will eventually tear. She needs surgery and the particular surgery he said they do for this is basically fusing the bone by putting a metal plate inside. She would not be able to bend her foot flat when she lies down and it would be forever in a locked position so she could walk on it.

I can't stand the thought of it, and I can't stand the thought of her going lame either. I hope that's not the only option, and on top of all that it will cost thousands of dollars.

If we can't find a way to control the jerking the surgery might not work.

While my friend and I were there, Dr. Muller called a pharmacy in Canada and one here and came back and said that neither carried Procainamide. It looks as if it used to be used in humans for heart problems but was pretty much made obsolete in recent years by newer drugs.

I don't know what we'll do if we can't get it. I'm going to see if I can check online pharmacies in India and a few other developing countries.

Now I'm really going to have to raise major money to get her through this. I don't know why this had to happen to her after all the stuff she's already been through.  After she was cured of distemper I thought she was home free, but now we are faced with another huge mountain to climb.

I just had a thought; I hope it wasn't the Zithromax she was on for her opportunistic infections that caused the problem with her ligament. I know it has been linked to that in humans. All the macrolide antibiotics have.

Dr. Muller suggested not doing the EKG since we don't know if we can get the Pracainamide anyway, and he said the only heart problem that is at all possible in a dog this age is heart block and that's very unlikely.

He told me he knows an orthopedist for animals who works over in the Northlake area who is good and also compassionate that he can talk to about Carmella's case and he thinks he'd charge less than they would at GVS.

He's also going to call the Neurologist Carmella saw over there the other day and talk to her.

Biarcliff Animal Clinic where Dr. Muller works has a charity that usually helps in cases like this but donations have been way down and they don't have the money.

Just a few more inches, and my hair will be long enough to sell.

I want to thank Janice at Heartworks for buying an ad on my blog! Please check out her wonderful plaques, mandalas and other handmade items by clicking on the new banner at the top of my TopSpots.

If any of you readers would like to help Carmella you can purchase an ad by clicking on the link at they bottom of that list and for $5.00 you can have a presence there too.

If jewelry, scarfettes, hats, or other accessories are your thing your purchase will help there too. Everything needs to go in my Etsy shop; http://giftbearer.etsy.com/ , jewelry and wearables. My goal is to turn it over completely and start phasing in all new pieces. Be sure not to miss the new hair flowers that wer recently listed; great to match Spring outfits! The buyer who brings my sales number in this shop to 90 will receive a free gift with their purchase.

or if you're more in need of supplies you can get some really unique ones here; http://giftbearersupply.etsy.com/ 

Carmella needs the help of the community now more than ever. You can be a part of her miracle so that she can have the comfortable and healthy life she deserves. There's much work to be done, but I promised her I would never give up on her and I intend to stick by her. She's had too many turn their back on her like so many other dogs have that came from shelters. There's something about Carmella that just reaches into your heart and that's why I chose her out of all the others.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

The Other Human Cost of the Economic Crisis; A Quiet Storm

Everybody knows that the fallout from today's problematic US economy causes financial loss, loss of homes, loss of jobs, and other tangible devastation, but there is another more insideous casualty, one that often takes a back seat to the other more measurable losses, and that is its effect on human relationships.

Although one would theorize that when you remove money and material things from the equation man's first reaction would be to band together with those closest, pool resources, and make relationships front and center of one's life, valuing those relationships more than ever, too often the very stress that brought one to that point threatens to tear apart those near and dear.

Perhaps this is the cruelest effect of all, as one can replace money and things later, but the bonds we forge with other fellow human beings are as unique as snowflakes, no two of them alike. These cannot be duplicated or substituted, and people, unlike money and things aren't interchangeable.

It's too easy for people to turn on one another in times of extreme financial stress; wife against husband, sibling against sibling, son or daughter against parent, or friend against friend. In the heat of the moment when backs are against the wall some rather than reaching out may close in and begin operating from a place of  "every man for himself" in the fear that if they dare to offer help to another they might lose their balance, fall and never be able to get up again.

Things said (or not said) are often taken the wrong way or have meaning ascribed that was not intended, and at a time when support is most needed it seems to fall on deaf ears or is not counted. One can become so overwhelmed with their current circumstance that they don't see what you're doing in reciprocity and misinterpret a simple request that may be merely part and parcel of the give and take in a relationship as their being taken for granted.

In an environment when money has lost its value I think some people begin to treat what they do for others in their relationships as though it were a product with a specific market value and in their state of agony they create a mental checklist of what favors are worth on both sides, deducing by some faulty assessment that theirs are worth more than yours. I hate to see this because it pits otherwise friendly people against each other, more like enemies or adversaries than friends or relatives.  Besides, everyone has their own unique skill set and "assetts" and therefore what each brings to the table is valid in its own right. The best relationships are those in which the people compliment each other, not duplicate each other.

One person, for instance might not be able to drive and that's one way that the other person can be of help and support to them, and the other person may have a skill they can teach the other, provide them lunch, crochet them a scarf, etc.

Our society in many ways is moving more and more towards a bartering society and my theory is that most people are still feeling their way around in order to try to adapt, and some aren't adapting all that well to this new reality. This is when interpersonal problems can arise.

For me it is not hard to grasp how to make this kind of system work because I've never had alot of money and have had to rely on other creative means to "pay" people back, but to those who are used to having money and don't have it now for the first time in their lives, I can imagine it must take alot of getting used to. Those individuals are used to being paid cash, and lots of it, are not used to waiting, and now they feel they're not getting paid what they're "worth" and so they feel cheated. Unfortunately one cannot manage personal relationships like you run a fortune 500 company. It may be easier if you could because you'd always know where you stand, but on the otherhand that would still place the two at odds to some extent and it lacks the warmth and trust inherent in a personal relationship. There are these gray areas in relationships that are not so gray in business, but if there is basic trust these can be navigated and worked through.

One would like to think that those closest to you will have your back through thick and thin, and that they know you care about them too even in times of stress and that you have theirs too; that such human connections stand the test of time, money problems, health problems, and other adversities,  and that trust will endure in spite of all that. One would hope that those closest will recognize that you are not the enemy; the circumstance is, and will eventually come around to realize that their frustration was misappropriated, and that the relationship will end up stronger.

As human beings our very survival depends on the give and take that goes on in relationships and our search for connection is an interal part of what allows us to overcome the obstacles we encounter.
If we remind ourselves and our loved ones to hang in there and to resist the urge to pull away there is hope that these adversities can be put behind us, as we forge ahead in this "brave new world". Together we stand; divided we fall, so let's make a conscious decision to stand together in this tough economy!

Sunday, March 21, 2010

National Health Care's Moment of Truth!

Today is the day that H.R. 3200 will be voted on and decided. It's been awhile since I've reported on the progress of this bill because there has been so much back and forth as to what it will contain, when it will be decided, and even if it would be passed at all.

Partisan maneuverings have dominated over the past few months, resulting in what looked like a deadlock and a collossal power-struggle between Democrats and Republicans.

Then once the bill was revised some Democratic members of Congress did not want to vote in favor of it because too many concessions were made in the interest of bipartisanship.

The website http://www.opencongress.org/bill/111-h3200/text tracks changes in the bill. The original word count was 176,276 and after changes it is now about 3 times longer; 395,096 which represents a total of 1,002 changes in all; meaning the document has changed statistically 76% !

That is quite a big shift from what the original text contained!

The Republicans keep complaining that if the bill is passed it will contain Medicare cuts, but as I read through the bill I could not find anything significant in the way of Medicare cuts, and in fact there were lots of areas in which it would be increased including the eradication of cost sharing for medications for dual eligibles (those who are so low income they are on both Medicare and Medicaid), doing away with the "donut hole", and providing such servives as marriage counseling, mental health counseling, and better coverage for dialysis, to name a few.

The downside of the bill from what I can deduce is that there are alot of budget items for Medicare and Medicaid as well as other forms of coverage that amount to increased paperwork, evaluation of various programs, and various forms of health education of staff and in some instances, patients. It doesn't seem that education has done much to change the mind-set of either consumers or healthcare providers; many nurses are still overweight for instance, people still smoke despite all the education currently out there about the dangers of such things, and creating more beaurocracy around such new initiatives probably won't help either, and it is money better spent on assuring that people get the direct patient care that they require.

On the positive side are incentives to small businesses that currently can get away with not covering their workers so that now it will be viable, even advantageous for them to do so, and the choice to "opt in" to a public healthcare option! I had thought all mention of the public option had been wiped from the bill, but luckily not!

The Sunday political commentary shows on TV this morning showed staunch conservatives like Karl Rove loudly protesting the fact that the President had some executive priviledge that he could make use of to get this bill passed, and they referred to the wording of the bill as "Bernie Madoff" politics. They seemed to be grasping at the last straws they could before it became a done deal. Statements like "There will be blood on the Congressional floor and it will be Democrats' blood" seemed the order of the day, and these representatives of the Replublican Party lauched dire predictions if the bill passed, one in particular being that there would be a "Republican take-over" if the bill went through. I seriously doubt that will happen especially if it ends up helping them and their families and friends in addition to Democrats. While the bill could have had more supports in it for individual citizens I think overall it will be an improvement.

It is 10:29 EST here and I just heard the news say that the results of the vote are due any minute now! Last I heard this afternoon the Democrats have the number of votes they need! Now it's all over but the waiting.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Help Heal The Damage

Want to know how you can help?

Jenn of likealilyamongthorns featured these Delia Earrings, part of my Carmella Collection yesterday in her wedding blog, "The Adventures of a modern Housewife". They'll make a wonderful addition to any bride's outfit on that big day!

Read the write-up, and purchase, and or send the link to your frends and help Carmella in the process.

 If you have a wedding or formal occasion coming up I have an intrigueing variety of jewelry pieces that are sure to make your experience one-of-a-kind and extra special! I also take custom orders if you have specific colors or styles in mind for the bride, bridesmaids, and any others who require something you don't already see in my etsy shop; http://Giftbearer.etsy.com

You can also purchase one of the ad slots to your right in my sidebar (click on the link at the bottom for instructions on how) at a cost of $5.00, or donate in any amount with a credit card or Paypal account through Paypal by going to the link that says "Please Donate To Carmella". I still have a long way to go to pay off her medical costs.

I just returned from GA. Veterinary Specialists after a long day. While we were there Carmella was excited at all the other dogs coming and going and whined almost non-stop wishing she could play with each one of them. The building was a large gray stone-looking brick structure with what looked like a cast iron sculpture out front of a tree and boys climbing up it after a cat that was perched on the furthest limb. Surrounding that on two crossing sidewalks were tufts of long ornamental grass growing like tentative topknots in hard-packed soil bogged down slightly by the recent rain.

My friend and I entered through the front entrance with automatic doors and made our way through a series of wooden benches to our left and right up to the reception desk in the center of a large atrium. Carmella could hardly contain herself and pulled almost hard enough to knock me down. It was quite a feat holding onto her leash and signing in, then filling out the preliminary paperwork. Tying her leash to a bench on the right I managed to complete the form and return it to a staff member as she walked by but not before Carmella began dragging the bench part-way across the floor. I caught her just in time and pulled her back. She was intent on making contact with an elderly Golden Retriever who sat nervously on the floor at the adjacent bench her owner was sitting on.

Unsure of Carmella's intentions she wimpered and looked up at the woman who looked back at me a little awkwardly as Carmella shreiked loudly at her dog in malamute-like tones tugging so hard at the leash she nearly choked.

My friend went outside to answer her cell phone and it wasn't long before Carmella and I were called back to wait in a room for the neuro vet. I think it must have been 30-40 minutes before she was ready to see us and in the meantime Carmella had to go to the bathroom, so I took her out front among the sparse tufts of grass. She peed and pooped without much delay and was then ready to go back inside. My friend came out just as we were headed for the front door and we went inside, she in the waitingroom, and Carmella and I to the inner room where we waited for the doctor.

The neuro vet looking to be in her early thirties, slim, with long dark brown hair pulled back in a long ponytail came in soon after trailed by a vet tech and an intern, and shook my hand a little too hard as though to convey something, though I'm not sure exactly what. Something about her seemed too deliberate but she smiled and introduced herself and the intern and asked how Carmella was and inquired about the symptoms that brought her in. Just as I came back into the room I'd heard her discussing Carmella with a man in the next room whom I supposed was Dr. Johnson (the male neuro vet who had refused to do the CSF procedure back before Carmella had started jerking and languished over his decision for weeks while Carmella began developing neuro symptoms that increased by the week). I just caught the tail end of their conversation but I'd heard him say something about Dr. Sears to the female neuro vet. I wondered whether he had told her that he'd refused to treat Carmella 17 or some months ago and why (that it wasn't in the medical literature).

This new vet asked me lots of questions about her myoclonus and any other neuro symptoms, and also asked whether she had any more respiratory symptoms. I thought "why would she now?" Then she did a thorough neuro exam checking her reflexes, looking in her eyes, looking to see whether she responded to sharp objects, etc, as the vet tech and intern looked on. Eyesight was good, reflexes good, other than the leg and the myoclonus all alse checked out. That was the good news. Then came the bad.

She asked me whether Carmella was on any medication for the myoclonus and I told her no she wasn't. She admitted that there wasn't much that would work for myoclonus and that the only thing she knew of that worked enough to really reduce the jerking significantly was a drug called Procaine which she said could have cardiac side effects so the dog needed to have an EKG prior to starting it and that it comes in injectible form or pill form. The pills have to be given 3 times a day.

She went on to say that not much else that she knew of could be done and that myoclonus wouldn't show a lesion on an MRI because any structural changes would be on the cellular level and microscopic if any, and it could be caused by purely electrical disturbances originating from possibly neurotransmitters in the nerve root "or the invironment around it" (where it meets the spinal cord in the shoulder).

She seemed to be extrapolating from what she'd read; things I've also read in medical journals. Her phrasing was "They think it's caused by that". She seemed to be reaching for answers that weren't verifiable by any tangible means like one who has heard a myth passed down by their ancesters and tells it again from old stories one heard as a child, so certain of the truth of this theory through sheer faith, yet so uncertain by any accepted scientific standards of proof. It is one of those theories accepted by the specalty more by default than by reason. She seemed to want to leave it at that and think no further. She said that she didn't "want to biopsy the nerve root"; that "that wouldn't be fair to her" as if to imply that would be the only way to find a focal point.

I mentioned the possibility of a stem cell transplant and she replied that was not being done yet outside a lab and that she couldn't do it. I told her that I didn't think she could but that there are two vets that I know of in town already doing it on dogs and that one in Alpharetta had been on the news just recently. The other was on Hwy. 78. I silently wondered how she could have been totally unaware of this great discovery hitting the market when it's all over the internet now and on the local news. It's even in journals, (but I guess not the ones she reads).

She seemed embarrassed or irritated; one or both by my giving her that information and said she would be really glad if there were a cure, but her words had a hollow ring to them as though she didn't really mean it if she couldn't have known it first.

I had the sense that she was paddling hard trying not to drown in her own cluelessness, covering it up with a guarded and clipped defensive demeanor as the conversation got more specific. Her friendliness quickly faded to a tense and deflective stance in which she resembled a bird perched high atop a way-too-slender limb on the verge of cracking beneath her feet.

She said that the fallen arch in the leg was, as I thought, due to the jerking, and that it probably wouldn't get better but if the jerking was lessened it might prevent it from getting worse. Without controlling or stopping the jerking it would certainly continue to deteriorate. The ligament has been stretched too much; not her specialty she said, but an "orthapedic problem". I asked what could be done about that part of the problem and asked if a splint would work and whether any sort of physical therapy could prevent further damage. She responded by telling me I'd have to ask an orthapedist and a physical therapist. That sounded kind of smart-alecy to me, as she did not recommend any names, just left it at that and stared back at me almost defiantly as if to say, "So there!"
I told her that I really don't know what to do with that information. She continued to flounder.

(I'd assumed they had those specialists there but felt it was futile to ask at that point as she seemed to be taking every one of my valid questions as a personal attack. As she offered no help hooking me up with them I did not want to take another trip out there across town on a maybe). She did sign my insurance form, handed me a card and a one-page typed report, shook my hand hard again, and I checked out and put the papers in my briefcase.

My friend was waiting in the atrium and I told her what happened. She was flabbergasted. that she was just dismissing us like that with no follow-up. I said, "Well at least this documentation will help somewhat when I approach the stem cell transplant vet. It may not need to be pinpointed exactly if she's right that it's coming from the nerve root in the shoulder. Stem cells could probably be put there and they'd migrate directly to where they're needed, and since this is already shown to be successful for ligament regeneration it might help in that spot at the wrist too!"

Perhaps despite her uncooperativeness and lack of preparation this vet had really given an answer anyway although mired in layers of porcupine quills. If she's right that its cause is due to problems with neurotransmitters I don't know whether stem cell transplant fixes that or not. I'll have to do some more reading about that to determine if it would. I still have access to some of the top specialists in that field on the committee I spoke of in one of my earlier posts. They are likely to be a storehouse of information since they are doing alot of research on various stem cell techniques. As I recall some mentioned in their bio that they sub-specialized in neural cell regeneration! Perhaps they will know the missing piece. Armed with that specificity I can then approach the stem cell vet and discuss the best way to go about it.

This dog didn't deserve what happened to her and deserves to be restored to complete health again. Because so many dropped the ball I am now paying to correct the mis-steps they made, as is Carmella.
My goal this year is to sell all my current inventory, help Carmella with the proceeds, and begin to phase in all new pieces! With the community's help I know this can happen! With Love and Action All Things Are Possible.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Carmella Gets Neurological Referral

Today the phone rang. It was Jocelyn from Dr. Norwood's office calling to let me know the paperwork had been completed for Carmella's referral to Ga. Veterinary Specialists. It had been a long time coming and I was relieved that finally we would get to the bottom of the myelin damage causing her constant jerking and atrophy of the leg.
As it turned out transportation was really the biggest barrier because I had only two people I could ask and finances and health problems were preventing one of them from driving more than two trips, and the other one's job prevents her from going until later in the day, and even then only on Thursday and Fridays because she takes work home with her three of 5 days every week.
The policies dictating when GVS does certain things narrowed it down even further, but finally after several hours of vascillation and negotiation we came up with a workable plan and set the date for March 18th at 11:45 AM. Carmella will see  veterinary neurologist that day for an exam and most likely will have to come back another day for the MRI and any other tests.
I spoke on the phone with a very nice woman who told me that although they usually don't do this it's possible that something can be arranged the same day once I get her in there and talk to the vet if the radiology people can fit her in that day. This has taken so long to arrange that it would be nice to get it all out of the way in the same day, especially since I won't be picked up for several more hours after her exam.
Apparently they will put her under general anesthesia during the MRI so that she won't move, and it takes 2-3 hours because the MRIs they use for dogs are less powerful than the ones used for humans so it takes longer to get all the pictures. The neurologist might order other tests and will give me a price quote ahead of time once it's established all the tests she's going to need.

Since the time I called over a year ago when Carmella needed the CSF procedure they have added a new neurologist that used to be an intern and decided to specialize. I was thrilled to hear this, as the other one wasn't very interested in helping Carmella before. I hear this one is very open-minded, so that is who I made the appointment with.

I took some really cute pictures of Carmella tonight. As she often is she was chewing on something in many of them.
For some reason she seemed to be particularly hyper tonight and wanting to chew on my arms. I threw a rubberized dumbell for her to fetch that she'd stripped of the outer surface long ago, and I played tug of war with her for awhile until we both were worn out.
Hopefully she'll sleep well tonight after all that exercise and won't jump off the bed at the crack of dawn as she sometimes does when I'm not awake enough to get up.

This morning was one of those rare days that she stayed curled up beside me until around 12:00 noon. I needed the rest anyway after the long hours I'd worked the day before getting a wedding order completed.
This morning I wasn't feeling so well and needed to stay in bed until the pain in my back, stomach, and legs subsided.

I had also stayed up around the clock one night getting a bunch of my jewelry ready to go to a store. I am going to prepare another batch this month also in hopes that I can make a decent amount of money this month. There will be alot of money to raise given the upcoming medical expenses for Carmella.

I see it is 3:30 in the morning already so I'll get this posted and then get some sleep and promote this entry later on today. If any of you find it in the meantime please feel free to post your comments! If you aren't yet following and you would like to keep up with Carmella's progress please do so. Things should be getting very interesting in the coming weeks and months!