February 25, 2012

The Year There Was No Winter

Okay, I know those of you in the antipodes are at the end of summer, but here, it's winter, and for the last few years we have had boatloads o' snow. This year, nothing. There's still a chance, of course, but it's increasingly unlikely that the capital area will have a significant snowfall with March just a few days away. And that's just fine.

But right now I'm up in Maine, checking up on an ailing Foilmormor, and there's no snow here either. That's just wrong. Wrong, wrong, wrong.

Now, I wasn't going to get to ski anyway, because Foilmormor's ailment is as follows: for the last six years Foilmormor has had a blood disorder that causes her to produce too many platelets. It's either polycythimia vera or essential thrombocytosis (who makes up these names? The department of incomprehensible disease nomenclature?) for which she has been taking hydroxyurea and been doing fine until this fall. And by fine, I mean, swimming in the ocean in Maine, swimming 100 laps a day (okay, the pool is small, but still) in the condo pool, walking 2-5 miles a few times a week, biking 10-20 miles on bike trails twice a week or so, visiting children and grandchildren, and generally keeping busy. The only sign of her age (75) has been excessive writing letters to the editors of publications with which she disagrees. However, this fall, Foilmormor got a wound on her ankle which would not heal. It swelled up. It showed the ankle bone. It was painful. It was gross. It wouldn't heal.

Finally, after several rounds with antibiotics, Foilmormor went to the wound care clinic at Mercy Hospital in Portland and the wound care doctor, upon hearing that my mom took hydroxyurea for her excess of platelets, told her that the wound was an ulcer caused by the hydroxyurea. After stopping that medicine, the ulcer started to heal, but this last month Foilmormor's hematologist told her that her platelet counts were just too darn high and she went on another medicine, but that medicine didn't work. Her platelet count is now about 1200 (400 is the top range of normal). She has started back on the hydroxyurea and says she can feel the prickling sensation which means that the ulcer is coming back.

Why not just remove the platelets via apheresis? I mean, living with open sores is no fun. The Red Cross takes my platelets every 2-4 weeks and gives them to people with myelofibrosis (what the Second Mate died of). Since Foilmormor has a blood disease, I'll understand if they toss her platelets, but since she has too many and you can remove them by apheresis, why not do that rather than give her a medicine that gives her open wounds, huh?

Does anyone have any experience with this? Anyway, Foilmormor can't wear shoes or boots now because they aggravate the ankle, so she just wears clogs. Fortunately, she lives in Maine where lots of people wear clogs (looks a bit hippy, but that's ok). Today, we went for a walk and Foilmormor apologizes for moving slowly, etc. My ailing 75-year old mother with a wound on her leg still managed a 1.5 to 2 mile walk over off-road trails in the woods. I was the one walking more carefully, since the last few times I've slipped and fallen I have dislocated my shoulder (left). Maybe it's the left side of our bodies' that's weak?

My ailing 75-year old mother could only walk 2 miles (actually, she could have gone farther, we just got to the end of the trail and were hungry and wanted lunch) and now she's napping. I do want that wound healed, but she's not at death's door yet.


wunelle said...

Nice to read your words again.

I can only hope to be half as hale and hearty as your mum @ 75. Good for her for living with the bit between her teeth.

Alas, I can offer no advice, though your suggestion sounds reasonable enough.


Foilwoman said...

Wunelle, thanks. I've taken advice from the estimable Benedict in Oz who has given some useful suggstions. I just don't want my mom to turn into an old lady. I like how she wears everyone out, including me.

dcpeg said...

Damn! That's frustrating! Your suggestion of apheresis sounds totally rational. Sometimes doctors can't see the forest for the trees. I'd sure push on that one. Good luck!

Foilwoman said...

Ms. Peg: Thanks. Actually, a reduced dosage of hydoxyurea, plus Vitamin D (thank you, your eminence) and calcium, seems to be keeping the platelet level down and the healing continuing. Fingers crossed