On Pins And Needles

RA Guy Adventures of RA Guy

NeedlesFor the past couple of days, Rheumatoid Arthritis Guy has been on pins and needles. No, I am not nervous that something bad might happen.  The reality is, I am actually the most calm that I have been in a long time. (In my RA terms, a long time means a month…)

The pins and needles that I speak of are literal.

Two days ago, I woke up early in the morning to go to the lab. (This was the first time in a long time that I’ve actually had to set my alarm clock.) I arrived right when the doors opened, submitted my doctor’s orders, paid the bill, and then went into the area where the actual blood samples are taken.

After about five minutes my name was called; I entered the room, sat down, and rolled up my sleeve. Luckily, it has never been difficult to find a vein in my arm. A few minutes later I was pressing down on the cotton ball, as the lab technician put the labels on the four test tubes.

Before I was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis, I was one of those persons who could not stand the sight of blood. On the few occasions when I accidentally caught a glance of my blood as it was being drawn, I immediately became dizzy and light headed. Now, with all of the blood work that I have had done since I was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis, I am able to look directly at the tube as it fills – without even missing a beat.

This is the first time ever that I have had my blood drawn without a sense of impeding doom. We know the routine…get your blood tested every few months to make sure that the medicines are not causing any liver damage, check for rheumatoid factor levels, and so on. (Although, up until now, I continue to be seronegative. Does this mean that I will always be seronegative?) In the past, I was always a nervous wreck between the time the lab test was performed and I received the results from my rheumatologist. I always expected the worst.

Everything always turned out to be okay, though. The funny thing is, that if there was ever a time to be nervous, now would be the time. You see, I’ve had a strong abdominal pain for about two weeks, and it continues to get worse with each new day. My next appointment with my rheumatologist is Monday afternoon. While I could spend from now until then worrying, I’d much rather adopt a wait-an-see attitude.

The best part of going to the lab was dropping in on a great little hole-in-the-wall breakfast joint that is just around the corner. (When breaking the fast that is required for blood tests, I’m going to do it with style.) At the table next to me was a young girl and her father. Her face was one big smile, as they bought breakfast to her table. Just a few minutes minutes earlier, she had been sitting next to me in the lab with the most worried look on her face, obviously scared at the thought of being poked by a needle. It seems like I’m not the only one who combines a visit to the lab with a visit to this breakfast joint.

Yesterday, I spent two hours late in the afternoon with my acupuncturist. Although I have gone many times in the past, I had not had a visit during the past half year. I had been looking forward to this session all week, and it was great to finally go back.

The person who I see practices electroacupuncture, which is a combination of traditional acupuncture and TENS (transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation). After my left knee and my right hand were loaded up with needles, the cables were attached and the machine was turned on. Although this may sound like a painful process, for me the results are nothing other than complete bliss. (Can anyone doubt a guy when he uses the word bliss?) Unlike traditional TENS, the electrical massage of electroacupuncture goes directly to the muscles and tendons.

In every session I have had, including yesterday’s, I have fallen asleep immediately. I still don’t know why exactly this happens. The best explanation that I can think of is, that since some of my most chronic pains are temporarily swapped for an absolutely wonderful sensation, my body takes advantage of the opportunity to experience pure, undisturbed sleep. (I don’t think I’m the only who has often woken up more tired than when I went to sleep, after another night where the pain prevented restful sleep.)

I ended up getting a two hour session, instead of just the sixty minutes that I was scheduled for. (The acupuncturist is a close friend of the family.) I often read articles online and discussions in forums where people ask if acupuncture really does help rheumatoid arthritis. All I can say, for a fact, is the for the two hours that I was on the bed, I was in pure heaven. Whether this helps my RA on a “scientific” level, I do not know. What I do know, is that there are few other things that have such an immediate and noticeable positive effect on my mind and body.

As of my current medications are in pill form, the one needle that is not a regular part of my life is the syringe needle. Although I take this back. A month ago today I had my first cortisone injection, and I have two more vials and syringes here in the house that my rheumatologist gave me “in case of an emergency”. (What a great rheumatologist I have, no?) While I was bumped up to methotrexate injections a few years ago, that was called off after it was obvious that is was not relieving my stomach and nausea problems. So while I do not see the syringe on a regular basis, it still is there every now and then.

Having been afraid of needles most of my life, they seem to have become some of my closest friends in my life of rheumatoid arthritis.

Are needles a part of your life?

Stay tuned…for the next adventure of Rheumatoid Arthritis Guy!