I wish I could say that I’m no longer staying in a shelter of any kind. However, I think after yesterday’s post about how early I get up every single day kind of squashes that notion. While it isn’t exactly the most ideal of living situations nor really the safest, there are some people I’ve met that have been some of the sweetest people. Ever. And living in Philadelphia . . . well, I feel as if I’ve lived here for ten years instead of three months. Walking the streets to do my shopping or just to be out and about is just so natural for me. (I’ve lost at least fifteen pounds since I’ve been here. Yay me!!) It isn’t all fun and games, which it shouldn’t be, but I’m keeping myself afloat and upbeat. I do admit that I’ve been considering heading to Tulsa for a couple of months just so I can get some rest and find some work, but, after reading an older status update from one of my cousins, I may just not act on that idea. The next couple of weeks will see how that turns out. (And, yes, if I did this, it would only be for a couple of months, just long enough to get a job, save up some money, and come back. There are reasons for this, reasons I’m not 100% happy with, but also beyond my current control. Just hoping and working towards making things work out for the better.)
Anyway, one thing I’ve liked to do is to buy fruit-flavored sodas and mixing the different flavors to drink and share with some of my friends. Yes. That is my idea of mixed drinks. I’ve taken orange, pineapple, and vanilla cream sodas and mixed them, sometimes just as orange and vanilla or all three. I’ve mixed strawberry soda with vanilla cream. I’ve even mixed watermelon and peach sodas together. My friends at the shelter with me (hey, where do you think I meet these guys?) just love them and are surprised by this. I’ll go to Wawa to the fountain machine and get me a Coke with raspberry and vanilla flavors added. Quite tasty! I like Wawa. I look forward to some day being able to offer up some of the recipe ideas that have hit me while being here. Yeah. I admit. I love to cook, to bake, and to eat. That’s my addiction, and I’m sticking to it.
There have been some frustrations along the way, aside from the lack of sleep at times and the TV being on. All. Night. Long. As a former health care professional, I’ve come to realize I don’t necessarily like dealing with other health care professionals. When I was in Washington, I didn’t necessarily like the one doctor when I expressed a desire for a blood pressure medication I could be on in the event I become pregnant. I admit it. I want to have children in this imperfect, crazy, messed up and violent world. This woman gave me a look and said, “That’s for you and your OB to discuss . . .”
What? You mean to tell me you can’t prescribe something that could be safe for me and a potential baby? I know it isn’t in your job description to be an OB-Gyn but come on now! I’m a woman who knows what she wants and what she’s about while still finding out what she wants and what she’s about! Surely, you know something a woman can take before she commits to that life-altering decision. And, yes, I know there are medications out there for it. My cousin had to switch B.P. medications when she was pregnant for her daughter. So I know that these things exist.
Okay, so three months in Washington comes and goes, and I’m now in Philadelphia. I’ve been in the care of a nurse practitioner from week one of arriving. She’s a nice lady, she’s doing wonderful work in aiding low income/homeless people, but she does talk to me like I don’t know anything about my own health condition and like I haven’t been dealing with it for eight years or anything about how to deal with high blood pressure. (For those of you who don’t know, I have hypothyroidism. I was diagnosed April 11, 2007. I also have family history on my dad’s side for things like high cholesterol, diabetes, heart disease, and, yes, high blood pressure.) It’s been more stressful dealing with her than in dealing with anyone from the Cadillac area. No one in Cadillac freaked out over what my hypothyroidism could potentially lead to for me. Yes, the one nurse practitioner wanted to be sure it wasn’t the other form of hypothyroidism, Hashimoto’s, but otherwise nothing about potentially needing a referral to a specialist or anything like that. It’s bad enough my dad has mentioned stuff to me about my condition, things I didn’t know, and one thing I can’t do anything about should it happen. There’s a lot of old school ways of thinking around here, thinking that doesn’t necessarily line up with my way of thinking, of living, and I don’t want someone trying to scare me into doing something or feeling something because she has this degree and I don’t. And, yes, this bothers me.
Here’s what I’ve dealt with from one nurse and the nurse practitioner:
Blood pressure: Up until about a month ago, it’s been running on the high side, or so they’ve said. I was taking a water pill to help regulate that part of my health. The readings weren’t where they wanted them. As a result, the dosage was changed, and I was becoming dehydrated. Also, the nurse would take my blood pressure (saw her on Wednesdays, by the way, through the shelter) within SECONDS of me sitting down from walking halfway across the room. When it was still too high, the nurse practitioner wanted to increase it again. Now, I was already chugging as much water as I could at this point, hadn’t had much coffee to drink for days, I walk everywhere, and she wanted to increase this water pill on me again? After I’d just refilled the prescription? I said no and asked for a different medication. By now, I’m not freaking out. I’m stressed out from their freaking out and angry. This is my health we’re dealing with here, and I know from dealing with other medical professionals the following.
1 – Sit for at least five to ten minutes before taking your blood pressure. The numbers will go down.
2 – Caffeine has an effect on your blood pressure. Don’t drink it a few hours before your appointment. (Did that in Cadillac. Bad me.)
3 – A base line needs to be established. Most doctors won’t say something is too high until they have an established base line. What’s high at one time on one day may not be high at the same time the next day. Establish the base line.
4 – Diet. Hey, I’m homeless. As much as I don’t want to eat such things all the time, my food stamps have to last me 28-31 days. Some days, that means living off of small bags of potato chips and instant Ramen noodles.
5 – Rest/Environment. If your environment is stressful, if there’s too much that’s preventing you from getting a good night’s rest, if you’re up at the same time every single day with little to no reprieve, you’re bound to be stressed. Tossing as much medication at the problem you’re trying to prevent is only going to cause the problem you’re trying to prevent.
These are things that these women went to school to learn. I learned all of this from being a CNA, talking to my doctor, and talking to my mom and stepdad. So when they do these things, these little freak outs on me and want to toss more medication at me while thinking that’s the ONLY way to control high blood pressure, I question their common sense. I have some faith in their abilities but not a lot. This isn’t good for a provider/patient relationship. I stopped visiting the nurse on Wednesdays because it was stressing me out.
Now for the thyroid.
I’ve had a fun time sorting out Medicaid for myself in Pennsylvania. Twice now, the nurse practitioner has told me the same story about how the previous governor decided to do a tier system for Medicaid, how which one is the most basic of the basic in regards to the plan, and that they’re waiting for this to be corrected under the new governor. She wants me on this plan because if they need to send me to a specialist, it won’t be covered under the plan. The one plan they don’t even accept so, as long as I’m going there for my check-ups and everything, I want to be on the plan that they accept. So that’s all taken care of and done . . . and at my last appointment, which I’d been in the office for a few hours because I had nothing else to do that day so arrived early, hoping I could see her early and be done by 11, she wanted to know if I could stay there longer to have my blood drawn. After all, I was complaining that I was tired, a sign that the thyroid is out of whack. Again. I had to remind her of how long I’d been up, how much sleep I do get, and tell her it wasn’t time yet for the blood to be drawn. I didn’t want to sit there all day or for even another half hour. I have things I want to do, that I need to do, and spending my time in a health center isn’t part of those things to do. I’m also on foot. I don’t have the funds for buying bus tokens, and I don’t want to buy bus tokens. I like walking. It helps me to clear my mind and release some of that stress I feel.
Believe it or not, my friends, I know that there are plenty of things that can go wrong with me, thanks to the hypothyroidism. My chances for a stroke and heart attack have increased, and they were already high due to my family history. I’m also certain my chances for thyroid cancer have come into play, not to mention everything else that I can’t prevent because the ways to prevent them haven’t been discovered yet. Preventing muscular dystrophy? Yeah. Nothing I can do about that so yes. There may come a day when I need a specialist, despite how well I keep everything regulated.
However, I don’t plan to be on Medicaid for the rest of my life. I don’t plan to be homeless for the rest of my life, and I have met people who say they’ve been homeless for twenty years. Yes, the experience has been rewarding, uplifting, and educational, but I don’t know how anyone can stand to live this way. I’ve worked for most of my adult life. I want to work, I want to earn my money, and I want to not be on public assistance. I want a doctor who isn’t going to make snap judgments and treat me like I haven’t dealt with my thryoid issue for the last eight years. I didn’t come to Philadelphia to continue the life of a homeless woman. I came to Philadelphia to finally start a life of my own so the idea that she thinks/believes/feels that I’ll be seeing her for a long time to come is a bit unsettling and very much not true.
I also dislike waiting beyond my appointment time to see someone who’s only spending five minutes with me. That doesn’t boost my confidence in the nurse practitioner that much, either. And, yes, she’s doing a wonderful thing, working where she does and with no/low income individuals. I applaud anyone and everyone who does that. But come on now. I am just as important as the person who arrived there at seven without the appointment, and my time is valuable. Please at least treat me with that dignity and respect.
Thankfully, things on the medical front are under control. I’m on a generic version of Atacand, which was what I was on around this time last year. I still don’t have any means to monitor my blood pressure on my own, but the last check up proved that it was working well enough so no dosage changes. I know why I’m tired, and I know it’s a situation that isn’t going to last forever. It’s a matter of getting myself caffeinated enough, motivated, and keeping myself motivated. I have things I’m looking forward to, and they help in keeping me going.