19 November 2011

The Garage Sale Story

I get requests for this from time to time.

A few summers back, I had a surplus of junk and a shortage of cash. A garage sale seemed like a good idea, so I rounded everything up and took an ad out in the paper. I also distributed flyers all over: laundromats, grocery stores, places I thought would attract a lot of customers. And it worked. At five a.m. the morning of, I was actually fending off early birds trying to sneak under the half-opened garage door. It was crazy and stayed that way for most of the day.

There were ups and downs. My stuff was selling like crazy, which was great. All of the big heavy furniture went right away. One lady walked off with five or six shopping bagfuls of random junk, enthusing to everyone who would listen that I had "good stuff". Then there were the baddies, like the lady who intimated ominously to me and my mom that if she happened to trip and fall on our property, she could sue us. She'd done it before, she said. It was enough to make me line the garage in yellow safety tape, which I did between her visits; she showed up every couple of hours.

We had a pretty good mid-afternoon crowd going when an old Buick stopped at the curb. A stout woman in her early sixties got out, then turned to assist a tiny little old lady in a white polyester pantsuit. The lady, who looked ancient, stooped and wobbled along behind her friend. We had a lot of people to keep track of and I didn't pay them much mind at first. About ten minutes later, the little old lady tottered her way up to me and asked if I had a place she could sit down.

I jumped up and gave her my seat. She placidly stared off into space, a multipurpose smile on her lips, as her friend went through a pile of old clothes. I figured it was a hot day, she was in head-to-toe polyester and she just needed a little rest. I went about my business, but a couple of minutes later she caught my attention to ask if she could use our restroom.

I'd never been in that situation before, a complete stranger asking to come in and use the bathroom, and I didn't know what to do. It was a sweet little old lady, it was a hot day. The house had two bathrooms: my parents' bathroom and the guest one, which I was using as my own. If she was using any bathroom, it was going to be mine. I wasn't wild about a stranger using my bathroom, but I felt like I couldn't turn down a little old lady. I said of course and took her elbow to help her into the house. She was so frail-looking that I stayed in the hallway in case she needed me.

I had waited about three or four minutes, worrying about my mom handling all the customers by herself, when I heard the little old lady's voice from the cracked bathroom door. "Yoo-hoo! Yoo-hoo! Miss, I've had a little accident. I don't suppose you have any baggie I could put my underpants in, do you?"

I'm thinking, aw, the poor lady's wet her pants. I said of course, ran back out to the sale, and grabbed an opaque plastic bag so that no one would see her soiled underwear. I brought it back and handed it to her through the cracked door. She thanked me, then a few minutes later the door was cracked open again. "Yoo-hoo! Yoo-hoo!"

This time she wanted to know if I had any pants to give her. That was kind of a strange request, but I assumed the urine had soaked through to her white slacks and she was embarrassed. I told her I'd find something, and I returned with a long, dark skirt from the sale. It even matched her blouse. I handed it through the door; she thanked me and things were quiet again for a few minutes more.

Then she was at the door again. "Yoo-hoo!" This time she wanted to know if I could go find her friend. I said sure and retrieved the lady from a rack of knickknacks. She followed me inside and disappeared behind the bathroom door. Then I heard something I didn't expect.

"Oh my God!"

Out scuttled the younger woman, pulling the little old lady behind her. They slammed the bathroom door behind them and scooted past me down the hallway, out the door into the garage and down the driveway to the Buick. They practically squealed the tires getting out of there. I followed along behind, thoroughly confused. For starters, the woman hadn't paid for the skirt I gave her. But when I went back and opened the bathroom door, I found that was the least of my problems.

Weak stomachs be forewarned, this is about to get very gross.

It took a moment to mentally process what had just happened in that bathroom. The closest I can come to describing it is this:

Imagine a jumbo-sized water balloon filled to capacity with completely liquid diarrhea. Now imagine that someone took that balloon, held it over their head, then spiked it at the floor as hard as they possibly could. That's about as close as I can come theory-wise as to what might have caused the devastation I was now seeing.

Liquid crap was everywhere. It was splattered on the mirror, it was running down the walls in little rivulets, it was congealing in the folds of the shower curtain. The toilet was caked in it. She had pulled out cabinet drawers and it had formed big tan splotches on the linens inside. In a couple of places, it was dripping from the ceiling. There were big hand prints in it where she'd hand-over-handed it down the counter. It was smeared on the faucet and spout. I wish I were exaggerating. I'm not.

My first impulse was to throw up. Then I realized I would have to kneel in a puddle of it to get to the toilet, and I clamped down hard on the heaving. Then I wanted to cry. If you know what a germophobe I am, you can imagine just how badly this got to me. I've cleaned up poop before, and it's not a big deal, but this was...complete stranger poop. And it was everywhere.

I went out to tell my mom and I spent the rest of the afternoon...and evening...and night...scrubbing that bathroom. It turned out to be even worse than I thought. It was up in the workings of my scale; it was splattered on the velveteen of my hot-rollers. I ended up having to spend most of the profits from the garage sale just replacing everything that had gotten ruined. The walls had to be repainted; even after I'd scrubbed with bleach, Lysol and then Soft Scrub, the brown stains remained. And we never heard from the lady or her friend again.

The only thing that we can think of that might explain what happened is this: we think the lady had a very full colostomy bag that she was trying to empty into the toilet, and it slipped and hit the floor. Not very far from the water balloon theory, really. How else could it have happened? It's not like she had a Super Soaker filled with it that she smuggled in there.

One of these days I might let down my guard and have another sale. Rest assured, though, that there are going to be NO PUBLIC RESTROOM signs all over the place. And I'll even turn down old ladies.
Coat my bathroom in liquid diarrhea once, shame on you. Coat it twice, shame on me.

I'll wrap up this story with something my Biomedical Ethics professor shared one day. He was on the ethics staff at Rush-Presbyterian, and he had just told a horrific but enthralling story involving a hooker who had a chronic infection of her colostomy opening. After some questioning as to why she was getting these persistent infections, she confessed to her physician that she charged extra for that particular privilege.

The class, mainly first- and second-years, was aghast. The professor perched on the corner of his desk, a twinkle in his eyes. "Now," he said, "who thinks that's the most disgusting story they've ever heard?"

Every hand in the room shot up.

He looked at us a moment. "And who here will never repeat it?"

Not a single hand was raised.

15 November 2011

The Parking Space Altercation.

"Tonight, we'll be investigating the growing use of handicapped parking spaces...by people who are not handicapped." (ominous music)

I cringe when I hear this sort of thing, mostly because I've learned over the years to expect more than one instance of idiotic, self-righteous vigilantism backlash after these nighttime news "investigations". This comes from two sources...the healthy uninformed, who equate all disability with apparatus (wheelchair, crutches, prostheses) and/or some sort of dramatic deformity, and the disabled self-centric, people who remain ignorant of all issues not their own and who are sure that in one way or another they're worse off than you.

I have a handicapped placard, even though my disabilities prevent me from driving. I have it with the full blessing of my specialists, all of whom are quite aware of the periodic upsets the spinal cord tumor and spinal scar tissue cause with my mobility. In addition to that, walking on slippery pavement is dangerous when you have a broken, radiated and dead cervical spine that can't be repaired. I'm not supposed to walk far, in the touchingly optimistic belief that less distance equals less risk. I've lived a good chunk of my life paralyzed, through some medical miracle I'm not-quite-paralyzed at the moment, and given the choice I'd rather remain as I am. So I come by the placard honestly, and then some. I'm supposed to carry it with me, no matter who drives.

So let's all agree that I may make spinal cord cancer and a broken neck look good, but at the end of the day it's still spinal cord cancer and a broken neck. People remark on how "healthy" I look, but they don't have MRI vision and can't see what's going on in there. I might limp if I'm having a bad day with the spinal stuff, or if all the postsurgical arthritis is getting the better of me, but otherwise people see me getting out of a car with no wheelchair or missing limbs and all they can think of is, "Fraud! Handicapped parking fraud!"

Today, I finished shopping in a store before my mother, who was driving us. She asked me to take the baby to the car, which was parked in one of several available spots (the pavement was wet, but I never take the last spot- I will only use my placard if other parking is available). I walked out with the baby, got her into the car with great difficulty, went through the usual routine of positioning her where she can climb into the seat herself and I could buckle her in.

I was still working on that, half in and half out of the car, when I noticed a large silver Jeep behind me. A woman was hovering, obviously waiting for the space, thinking that I was buckling my baby in before hopping into the driver's seat and vacating the apparently coveted spot. I guess she couldn't have known that I can't drive. She was getting impatient with how slow the buckling process was going, and she started yelling at me from her car and gesturing angrily. There were other spots, but this one was hers, damn it.

I decided to ignore her, since I literally could not do anything that was going to make her happy, got the baby buckled in, and did my arthritis-hobble back around the car to the passenger seat. When I got in there instead of driving off and relinquishing the space, it was too much for her. She tore into the space beside ours, screeched loudly to a halt, and got out of the car.

This is a rather scary scenario for someone with a delicate spinal situation. I locked the door and stared back at her as she shouted and gestured some more, and then she did what I guess I expected her to do the whole time...come around the front of the car and lean on the hood, angrily scanning for the handicap placard she thought wouldn't be there.

But it was, and she stormed off, and when my mom got out of the store we got out of there.

I never figured out exactly what the woman's problem was, other than her apparent obsession with the parking space and her certainty that I wasn't there legitimately. I'm not sure which camp she was in, the ignorant able-bodied or the self-righteous disabled. She was scary.

It's sort of sad that this comes up now and then, but it does.

My opinion is this...if someone has a placard or plates, it's between them and the DMV how that came about. If the placard or plates are there legitimately, it's no one else's concern. And there are so many mobility-limiting but not physically dramatic disabilities out there, I don't know how anyone could be so confidently self-righteous about it with absolutely zero information. Snap judgments gone bad, I guess. And sanctioned by the local news, to boot.

As for the people who park in handicapped spaces with no right to be there, or people who sneak in with Grandma's placard, I'm not too keen on them. As a friend once said, "There are the disabled...and the not disabled yet." It could happen to anyone, so why not behave yourself while you're ahead?

01 September 2011

Life goes on, as a disabled mom.

Long time since the last update, but things are more or less the usual for me. Had stomach surgery with IV anesthesia, cried as I was rolled into the ER because I thought they'd crank my neck back and I'd be wheeled back out paralyzed or dead.
Surgery has always been particularly perilous due to the other problems. I was not at all happy with the loss of control that comes with general anesthesia. If I'm out, I can't talk, and if I can't talk, I can't make sure people are being careful with my unstable spine. That's a very scary prospect.

I don't know if most people realize it, but they're very, very rough with people in surgery. You get rolled, you get flipped, you get shoved and propped and turned. Have you ever noticed weird bruising after a procedure? That's why. Since you're anesthetized, you don't have that body-stiffening "wait, this doesn't feel right" thing going. In "normal" intubations, your head gets cranked back (yes, that's the term I've heard used in physician circles) to clear the airway for whatever works they've selected to be inserted. It's all a very rough process, and I don't do so well with rough.

Anyway, I had a great physician who did the procedure herself and who made sure that everyone in the room was aware of my situation. So I was still crying, but I was glad she was there. And when I woke up, I was fine. Missing a chunk of stomach for a biopsy (gastritis nonspecific), but fine. My mom was watching my daughter and she had thoroughly exhausted her good behavior by the time I got to Recovery. She kept interrupting the surgeon to tell her stories about her plastic zoo animals.

Three days before the stomach surgery, I broke my ankle stumbling off my in-laws' front steps. I'm not sure how much of that was clumsiness due to the inflexible spine and how much was just general clumsiness and an unforgiving terrain. In any case, I stepped off the front steps backwards (facing someone on the porch who was talking to me), hit an uneven piece of concrete with my left foot, instinctively put the right foot down to support myself, it happened to land in a hollow, the foot turned under me, and down I went.

I heard a snap but thought it was my imagination. I'd sprained my ankle so badly in junior high my leg was black to the knee, so it was weak anyway. I figured I'd just turned it. My brother-in-law had just taken us on a tour of his fire station; he was there to wrap it and tape a bag of frozen spinach to it. My mother-in-law gave me her cane. The kids were standing over me with umbrellas. I had yard-mud all over my back and butt and had to limp into Walmart later for new clothes. My daughter was crying, "Mommy fall down, is she ok? Mommy fall down hurt her ankle!" It was all very embarrassing.

Not long after that, I noticed that my ankle wasn't behaving like it did the many times it'd been sprained before. It had a floppy, unstable feel to it and it was only puffy in one spot. When I poked the puffy spot, the pain was astounding. So because it was weird, I decided to get it checked out. My doctor told me that she was sure it was just a sprain and that the office had never ordered an ankle x-ray that had ended up being a fracture. A couple of days later, they called back: "Congratulations, you're the first patient in our practice to ever have an actual ankle fracture."

It was an avulsion fracture, which happened when my foot turned under me so violently. Instead of stretching or tearing as a ligament would in a sprain, it just yanked itself loose and took a chunk of bone with it. So I've been in a hateful, smelly, knee-high brace thing that I hope to be rid of soon. I don't wear it as much as I should. I'm reminded of my folly every time I step on a toy and my ankle twists anew. It's still very floppy and the house is full of brightly colored plastic landmines.

So that's been my summer...setbacks here and there, but still trying to soldier on and pack the most I can into life. My daughter is beautiful...three feet tall, a little over one-and-a-half years old, talking and imagining well enough to tell me that the abrasion on her knee was a zebra bite. She remains the best thing that ever happened to me, one mark in the positive column of a story that's frankly a bit of a downer.


13 February 2011

Gatekeepers, part III

Fast-forward to my daughter's one-year well-baby exam, and they're at it again.

After the two-month exam with the whole "go to the health department" debacle, the doctor's office didn't utter a peep about any potential problem with the insurance. She got all her shots on schedule with no issue.

Which explains my surprise when a nurse entered the room brandishing a paper instead of a loaded syringe, telling us that we were going to have to go to the county health department because our insurance wouldn't pay.

My first thought was, "Oh, not this again." After that it was steadily rising anger as I argued with the nurse, the same nurse who had given my daughter's injections all this time with no apparent problem. She left and returned several times, finally backing down enough to tell me that fine, they'd give the shots, but they'd be losing a large chunk of money in the process.

My little girl got the shots, put in the requisite screams and received her special kid-friendly band-aids. We went home. I started making phone calls. Then there was one hell of a big ice-storm that pretty much shut down this part of the country for a few days. When we dug out from under it, I began making calls again, and this is what I established:

My daughter has a very good primary insurance plan through a private insurer. The plan covers 7 well-baby visits within the first year, all with the corresponding approved vaccines. My daughter had used 5 visits and they had covered everything 100%. The one I'd just been to was the 6th visit, meaning that even if I'd gone to an EXTRA visit and somehow fit in some extra vaccinations, that would have been covered too.

I had to wait through several days of a closed business office before I was put through to an office manager of some sort, and by that point I was so angry I left one of those disgruntled-customer messages on her voicemail. That gave her a chance to get huffy in return, so I should have expected her to be difficult when she finally called.

HER: You need to understand, it is our office policy that when we see (daughter's supplemental insurance, which she doesn't use except for copays), we do not administer vaccinations because that insurance doesn't pay for them. Now, I looked up our policy and was sure of that before I called you.

ME: I'm telling you that's a non-issue because that's my daughter's secondary insurance and the billing should never even get to them, because her primary insurance pays 100% of her well-baby visit and vaccinations.

HER: (louder) It is our office policy to send patients to the county health department because we do not get paid and vaccinations are expensive. Now, I have taken my grandchildren to the county health department and it is just fine.

ME: I am not going to the county health department! My daughter has a very good primary insurance plan through a private insurer and they told me that they have paid 100% of office charges, INCLUDING vaccinations, INCLUDING (list of all the recent vaccinations). They cover it all. The secondary insurance should not be getting billed! You don't have to bill them! The primary insurance is paying for everything!

HER: Are you asking me to pretend that you don't have (secondary insurance) when you do? Because I won't be a party to that. And if our medical staff is going along with you in this, I need to educate them.

ME: What?

HER: Are you asking me to defraud (secondary insurance) by removing them from the billing?

ME: What the hell are you even talking about?!?

...it went on, in this vein, for about ten minutes, with me angrily brandishing contact information to this person and that person at the primary insurance's provider-info line and trying to pound it through her thick skull that, unless she was double-billing or something, this was a stupid knee-jerk reaction to seeing the name of a completely irrelevant insurance policy.

HER: Oh. Wait. I should have looked at your chart.

ME: Probably.

HER: Well, I see here that (primary insurer) has paid 100% of all our billing.

ME: That's what I've been trying to tell you.

HER: Well, I just looked up our office policy to make sure I had that right, I didn't look at your chart to verify the insurance coverage. I'll put a note in here for them not to bother you, we haven't had a problem with your insurance at all.

ME: (probably having some sort of mini-stroke on my end from the top-out in blood pressure) If you'd just checked it to begin with, we wouldn't have had to go through all this.

HER: Well, I can see there's no problem so I'm going to write a note to the medical staff not to bother you. We'll pretend we never had this conversation, ok?

...and you can see how well I can pretend we never had that conversation.

Seriously, what the hell is wrong with people? Somewhere in her authoritative drone she also assured me that I didn't understand insurance terms and that 100% coverage didn't mean 100% coverage, that I would get an increase in insurance premium. I gritted my teeth and told her to let ME worry about that, it wasn't her problem.

A little bit of knowledge is a dangerous thing. I wonder how long we'll go before the next run-in.

27 March 2010

Gatekeepers, Part II

So on Friday, I took my daughter to her two-month well-baby exam. And all went wonderfully with that. She's big, she's strong, she's healthy, she hates getting shots. All normal.

I'd gotten a bill for $40, for two past copays we'd owed from before we knew the exactitudes of her insurance plan. That was $20 a visit, so I was prepared to pay $60...the two old copays and one current one. Except when I sat down to pay, they wouldn't take my money. They kept insisting that the supplemental insurance could be re-billed and that I shouldn't have to pay a copay. I kept trying to pay. They kept telling me no.

Fine. I took the $60 and spent it on baby supplies.

A few hours later, I got a call from the doctor's office. This had happened the last time she was in for a well-baby exam and vaccinations, so I was half-expecting it: a call to make sure she was doing okay after the shots, that she hadn't had a reaction. Except it wasn't that at all.

“Do you know if your insurance is going to cover this visit and these shots? Because frankly your supplement isn't even going to pay us enough to reimburse for the meds, and if your insurance isn't going to pay you need to be getting your vaccinations at the county health department.”

....uh, what?

I was so taken aback by this, I didn't build up any steam for a full-on hissy fit. The baby is covered under a good, commercial insurance plan...Aetna... and I was just about positive that a two-month checkup and vaccinations would have been covered. There hadn't been any problem before. I didn't have the booklet there in front of me, but I was sure...wasn't I? Why was she calling me and not the insurance? Was there some reason this wouldn't be covered? Why was she being so snitty about this? Why the threat to send me to the health department instead of...oh, I don't know...billing me? What was this all about after they refused to take my money that morning, when I sat down with cash and tried to give it to them? I mean, what the hell?

I fretted about it for a while, then spoke to a very nice woman at Aetna. I gave her a brief rundown and she asked if I was serious. She asked if this kind of behavior was normal for where we lived. She offered to call the office for me and I told her yes, please, thank you so much. She left a message for the business office woman to call her back on Monday and told her that yes, of course well-baby visits and vaccinations were covered and she could have called her to ask her this herself, instead of bothering the patient, if she had concerns. I was very happy I talked to the woman at Aetna.

But why did they call me? Why the insults? Why would they completely skip over the possibility of billing me? Why does someone who works in a billing office not know whether one of the major commercial insurances covers something that just about every insurance plan covers? The world may never know. It's a shame the doctor's so nice, because I'm pretty disgusted with his staff.

And nope, we never did get a call checking on the baby after her vaccination like we did the first time. Maybe they were in battle mode over assuming they wouldn't get paid and they didn't care. Weird.

Gatekeepers, part I

“When office people are good,” a triage nurse told me last week, “they're wonderful. And when they're bad, they're horrible.”

She was getting me checked in for yet another ER visit, because my usual arthritic/spasm flare-up had the scary new element of an ugly throb in the middle of the back of my head that made me sick with possibility. Sometimes it felt as if a blood-pressure cuff were being inflated around my neck, making my head and cheeks turgid with blood. Mainly, I envisioned an aneurysm on some weakened vascular structure, although I wasn't ruling out the possibility of some metastisis lurking on my brain stem. I became frightened. I cried. I went to the hospital. Did I mention that all of this happened on my birthday?

My c-spine had been acting up since the first week of March. Had it not been for the unpleasant addition, I would have written it up as standard procedure...I usually have one or two very bad episodes a year, often in conjunction with a seasonal or lifestyle change. The weather had been all screwy and my muscles had been learning to lift a baby; both were likely culprits. I once had an episode after adopting a new kitten who wanted to snuggle between my shoulder and my head, as close to my face as possible, and tried to push my head out of the way as he stretched. It happens.

I made my usual appointment with the neurologist who handles my day-to-day problems. He was more booked than usual, and the appointment wound up being at the end of the month. When the weird, new throbbing started, I worried. I know radiation weakens vessels. What had it done to me? Was the throbbing an ominous sign? Was I going to die suddenly and leave a newborn infant behind? I began moving cautiously and imagining a loose fire hose gushing blood, waving around wildly inside my brain.

I called his office and told the medical assistant what had been going on, that I had these new symptoms on top of my standard experience, and explained that I lived two hours from the doctors office. Should I have my usual MRI early, I asked, so that he would have it ready when I arrived for the appointment? That way, if there were some emergency, he could be alerted by the radiologist at my local hospital. The assistant wouldn't relay the message to the neurologist. She told me I could wait till my appointment.

So wait I did, for over two weeks, and soon my eyes felt like they were bugging out of my head with the pressure. And when I stood up, the throb returned in the center of my brain and my world whirled and I imagined my daughter telling friends, when she got close enough to them, that she never knew the mother who had died when she was less than two months old.

So I went to the ER and stepped outside my MRI-only rules to have a CT done. (That statement would be a lot more impressive if you knew how terrified I am of radiation). Long story shorter, there was no obvious cause of the throb and the pressure, other than “more neck weirdness”, and a few days later it faded with the rest of the inflammation and spasms. I have no idea what happened. Maybe something pinched or pulled something else. I haven't seen the neurologist since before I was pregnant. Sometimes that feels like swimming just out of sight of the lifeguard, into tracherous waters.

I guess I'll find out at my appointment, or after I finally have an MRI. Could the worry and the expensive ER visit have been avoided by the office gatekeeper relaying my concerns to my physician? Maybe. Should she be abstaining from making medical decisions on his behalf? Probably.

25 February 2010

Figuring it all out...

In January I gave birth to my third daughter...one I got to keep this time...and the entire experience was uncharacteristically smooth. She's a beautiful and healthy girl, very alert and well-oriented for her age, very vocal. We're thrilled, if somewhat at a loss as to what to do in an utterly normal situation. We're getting there, though.

I had an incredible surgical team, complete with my Guardian Angel nurse and a trio of anesthesiologists and anesthetists who had several plans and backup plans. It was the only spinal anesthesia I'd ever gotten that didn't cause problems later. Other than making the surgery a little more complicated than it might otherwise be, my traitorous body pretty much behaved itself.

There were some issues with movement-- when you have a stiff neck, your natural reaction is to compensate with your abdominal muscles, which my c-section rendered temporarily useless. I laid there like an upended turtle before working that out. There are issues with breastfeeding, when you can't look down far enough to see that everything is going as it should. These were things I hadn't really thought of, but were easy enough to work around.

There were some other things that were more difficult. I wanted to breastfeed and we didn't know exactly how that would go down with the radiation damage I have. I was visited by a hail of lactation consultants...about seven in all, some more understanding than others. I had the infant shoved in there until she bit out of frustration and had threads of my blood in her spit-up; I was hooked to a wheeled apparatus that made me feel very much like a barnyard animal; I was alternately coddled and scolded about my whole insufficient-milk situation and for the most part made to feel that I wasn't trying hard enough.

Finally we met with one who seemed to get it, and after trying a couple of things we arrived at a conclusion I'd reached a month before...to do what I could, and supplement with formula. I've found that as a rule lactation consultants don't like to discuss formula. They want to get in there and wrangle for your very soul, which is frustrating to me because I wanted to breastfeed to begin with. Everyone was a lot easier on me after it became apparent that the baby was gaining weight very appropriately and that I wasn't starving her with this lack-of-birthright thing, over which I had no control at all.

When I was pregnant with the twins, I did a lot of research on moms with disabilities and how they compensated for their physical shortcomings. There's a physical aspect to child-rearing that can't be avoided, and I knew my problems would be bigger than not being able to go on a rollercoaster or ice-skate with my daughter. There's an organization or two out there, but in general the information isn't too easily accessible. Guess some of that's going to fall to me, to share as I figure things out.

Know those big plastic baby-carriers that are pretty much standard issue these days? Yes, well, when you have broken spinal issues and a muscle spasm problem, you can't carry them. Not only are they too heavy even without a baby inside, they're also too far away from your body's core and swing heavily like a pendulum at the end of your arm. So I can't just go tooling around with one of those on my own; someone has to carry it for me. Dependency rears its ugly head once again.

Slings and carriers work better, but it's difficult to find ones that will work well with your particular musculoskeletal situation. You can't just try out every one on the market to see what works best. It's also difficult to easily transfer a child from a carrier or sling to a stroller or carseat, especially in winter when everything needs to be covered. There's a lot of unwrapping and unraveling involved. When my daughter is able to hold up her head on her own for longer stretches, I think slings will be good support and take some strain off my arms. Until then, though, it feels cumbersome and vulnerable. For now, I also want more of a protective shell around my baby if I were to slip on the ice or anything.

I love the collapsible stroller I use to wheel the baby around with me. It's a bit big at the moment, but with a sleep positioner and head-cradling pillow, that took care of that. She can go anywhere I go, there's plenty of space for necessities, and this particular model is super-lightweight and easy to handle. My mom bought the next-heavier-duty version, and that will be good for outdoor use. These also fold with minimal fuss...squeeze the handle and down it goes.

So we're working on it. I'm learning how to incorporate a baby into my whole physically-compromised scenario. It's not impossible, just takes some work. I'm so thankful to have my daughter that even the big problems are a pleasure to handle.