July 6, 2011
Today was a really beautiful, perfect summer day. However what I had to do this afternoon did not bring me carefree summery happiness. This afternoon I went to CDI to get another steroid injection in my right ankle’s subtalar joint. At this point I can’t even remember how many injections I’ve had in this poor battered ankle. Four years ago I had synovectomy surgery on it which barely helped. I keep joking to various friends that I should nominate myself to be on that show “Mystery Diagnosis.” After six years of “mystery” pain and swelling in both ankles and countless trips to various doctors and foot/ankle specialists (even a trip to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester which yielded zero results other than a motel bill), I feel ready to give up. But I don’t want to give up. I want to be able to walk and just stand on my own two feet like a normal healthy person. The good/bad news is that MRI scans continue to not show any damage or active inflammation. That’s great, but why does my ankle hurt so much? Just looking at it you can see very obvious swelling.
So last week I decided to call the orthopedic doctor who did my surgery in 2006 to ask again if there was anything that could be done to relieve the pain. He ordered a fluoroscopically-guided injection which is what I had done today. Basically, the radiologist uses an X-ray/CT scan to locate the exact location of the joint and where the steroid medication will be administered. Luckily I didn’t have to wait long once I checked in and filled out the annoying paperwork (that I have filled out a million times already for MRIs). I was escorted to a procedure room and was then told to climb up onto the table. The doctor instructed me to lie on my left side with my right ankle facing up. He washed and sanitized the area with alcohol and disinfectant. Then he inserted the needle with a general anesthetic to numb the joint. That hurt pretty bad since my ankle is already very tender and sore to the touch. After the anesthetic was administered (and I was silently gripping the sides of the table trying to not wince from pain), the doctor injected the contrast dye. This felt very strange and despite the numbness, I could feel the liquid of the dye worming its way into my joint. Then, with the aid of the X-ray and the dye, the doctor injected the steroid. “That’s it, you’re done.” Thank God. Once the needle was out I felt a lot better and proceeded to sit up and then hobble off of the table and limp back into the waiting room. I’m really crossing my fingers that this will work and I will finally have some answers about this stupid, frustrating ankle. The technician told me that it can take up to a week for the medicine to really take effect, so I need to be patient. I thought to myself – yeah right, more patience. It seems no matter what is going on with my RA – waiting for steroids to take effect, waiting for flare-ups to go away, waiting for medications to get covered from health insurance, waiting for my next doctor appointment – this disease is constantly testing my patience. Some days I’m amazed that I have any left.