It’s been over a month since I last posted in my blog. While a week of that was due to my prior PC getting totally messed up during a Windows update, a lot was due to a few medical issues. These seem to be increasingly happening as my body ages, but the past few weeks it felt like I was falling apart in several places at once. So, I thought it would be good to recap what’s happening and where things are going.
In the past I’ve done this starting at the top of my head and moving downward, but I think I’ll change that up and move in the opposite direction this time. So, without further ado, here’s what’s going on.
Feet and Legs – In early December, I had a two-step skin graft put on the bottom of my foot. Everything seemed to be going well and by mid-month my weekly checkups were reduced to once a month. But then, on Christmas Day, I was not feeling well and my symptoms were similar to the times that I had sepsis in the past. Recognizing that, Donna said that we would not wait until the symptoms got worse, but that she would take me into the hospital immediately. The ER was thankfully quite empty, so I was taken to a room and admitted fairly quickly – for a 3-day stay. (Not the way I would have chosen to spend the week between Christmas and New Year’s.)
On removing my socks and shoes, it was obvious that my right foot was the source of the infection. There were two large blood blisters next to the graft area as well as cellulitis on the top of that foot and some red streaks starting up my ankle. They drained the two blisters and put me on antibiotics.
Donna called my podiatrist and scheduled an appointment for me to see him the day after I got released. It was obvious that both the blisters were “communicating” with the area under the graft, so he cut away both the graft as well as all the tissue over the blistered area. So, back to square one.
Since then, I’ve had a couple of diagnostic tests. The first was an MRI of my right foot because he was concerned that the cause might be an underlying infection in the bone. That was negative (whew!), so instead of considering bone removal, we’re going to go the graft route again. The other was a doppler check of the blood flow in both legs and feet. As I write this, that was this morning. Good news again, my blood flow is perfectly normal (which is often not the case with diabetic patients like myself). So, everything is set up for another round of skin grafts tomorrow.
Colon – I had my first colonoscopy back in early 2017 (at age 68 – I should have had it several years earlier, but it was not something that occurred to me). They found, and removed, nine polyps – none of them cancerous. Because there so many, I had another colonoscopy a year later in 2018. That found one additional very small one, also non-cancerous, which they removed. Colon cancer is VERY slow-growing, so they put me on their follow-up list for five years out. Thus, I got a letter last week asking me to set up an appointment. This should be the last one as the risk/reward of having a colonoscopy after age 75 does not warrant further testing since the average lifespan does not warrant it. So, another test in the next few months – not a big deal.
Pancreas – After some cycling up/down for a few months due to the stress of all the other medical issues, I’m now getting my sugar levels under control again for the past few weeks. In addition, I have lost four pounds so far this year and am encouraged to get off the weight that I’ve been stuck at for the past several years. I’ve actually managed to get my BMI under 30 for the first time in a few decades – Yay! Hitting such milestones is definitely encouraging me to continue and see if I can drop it further.
Heart – During my hospital stay, I had a few hours where I was feeling a tightness across my upper chest and pain if I tried to breathe too deeply. They alleviated the pain with a shot of morphine, but said that I should have another stress test in the near future. Because of the problems with my foot and not being able to do any extended walking on a treadmill, this would have to be a “nuclear” stress test like the last one I had in mid-2021. So, I contacted my cardiologist and got that scheduled for earlier this week. When I did this in 2021, they stressed me too hard, and I passed out (see here). This time everything went well. So, no issues here.
Mouth/Teeth – Over the years, I’ve had most of my teeth replaced with implants and titanium coated with enamel. My upper teeth are in two connected sections, but my lower ones are either single or pairs of teeth. I still have my original lower front teeth. But because the uppers are connected, they are quite strong and when chewing they are placing a lot of pressure on my lowers. This is particularly impacting my front teeth which are beginning to loosen and the jawbone starting to erode. So it’s finally time to do something with them as well.
The timing isn’t great because of all the other stuff going on, but next month they will remove the four front incisors (teeth numbered 23-26 for those who keep track of that kind of thing) and put some bone in the empty sockets. After that all heals, I’ll have a couple of implants there and a solid bridge put in that joins teeth 22-27 – anchored by my two canines which are still ok. That new strong bridge should be able to resist the pressure. At least I get to wait until next month for the next step on this.
Brain – In the middle of all the above, I had the PET scan of my brain. This is the last screening step for qualification for the Alzheimer’s drug study that I have enrolled in. Once they have evaluated the level of amyloid plaque in my brain, I will either be qualified for one of the two arms of the study, or I will be told that I am not qualified. So, right now I’m waiting for them to make that evaluation and call me to schedule my next trip to UPenn. If I’m qualified, then I will sign the forms acknowledging the level of risk and agreeing to the next four years of IV infusions of the study drug.
In talking to the study coordinator, I have learned that a number of people started the qualification steps, but then they later backed out. I have no intention of doing so. Is it without risk? No. But I’m willing to accept the risk if it will help to advance the development of drugs that can be used to treat this terrible disease. So, stay tuned.
Summary – It’s certainly been an interesting last few weeks! Nothing like starting off 2023 with multiple medical tests/appointments every week. So, while it’s been a bit stressful having to deal with so many things going on at once, none of the individual areas are ones which are overwhelming by themselves. God is good! With him at my side and with the support of all my family and friends, I have weathered the storm (so to speak). To those reading this, thanks for praying with me.