15 July 2014

Weighted Bed Socks

I live with constant foot pain, kind of plantar fasciitis on steroids (congenital abnormality in my feet, possibly related to my hip dysplasia). All very boring. Nights are the worst, and foot pain and sort of 'antsy' cramping frequently disrupts my sleep. I accidentally discovered a few weeks ago that putting a heavy weight on my feet dampens down the pain a great deal, and allows much better sleep. So these might help you too, if you have foot cramping, aches, neuropathic pain, or plantar fasciitis.

If you're not sure if weighted socks will help you, do a test using a large ziplock bag of sand or a large unopened packet of rice. Drape it over your foot, and see if it feels nice. Put a pack of rice in a pillow case, and put it on your feet at night. Does it help?

At first I made a small weighted foot blanket. This was OK, but did tend to slip off. You could make a bed-width narrow weighted blanket though, that would probably work moderately well. There is a good tutorial here.

I decided to experiment with making weighted bed socks, and this is the result:


Socks with pellets in the soles


They make such a difference to me, that I thought I should share this idea with you, in case it helps you too!


Materials:


  • 2 pairs of socks with a fine weave (ie regular cotton socks — handknit socks might allow the small pellets to push through the fabric)
  • Tailor's chalk
  • Darning 'mushroom'
  • Pins / safety pins
  • Needle and thread
  • Weighted fill — slingshot pellets, ball bearings, duck shot (not lead)
  • Scales & a pouring device (funnel, small jug etc)
Slingshot pellets

The best weights I found were small steel balls. You could use ball bearings, but they're pretty expensive. I settled on slingshot steel pellets, which cost me $45 AUD for 1 kg of shot.

DO NOT USE LEAD. No level of lead exposure is safe, and wrapping it in plastic or fabric won't be enough protection. Gold's a safe option, though!

Method: 


1. Put one sock on your foot, then the second sock over the top of it, lining up the toes and heels.

2. Using chalk, draw around the edge of your foot, for where you want the weights to go to. If you have a lot of arch pain, for instance, you might like it higher on that side. Also draw lines across the sole to divide the area into 4 roughly even strips. You may like to add a vertical line down halfway, too. I just did this division for the top half of my socks. Basically, the filling is going to shift around, and the pocket divisions help hold it in place.

3. Using either pins or safety pins, carefully pin the socks together in a few places (heel, toe, each side). Don't pin your foot!

4. Take off the socks. Put the darning mushroom inside the doubled socks, and sew around the outer border of the chalked line. Start at one side of the heel end, sew down a side, around the toe, and up the other side, removing pins as you go. Leave the back of the heel area open. I used herringbone stitch, which is a great stretch stitch.


Close up of Herringbone stitch
Herringbone stitch close up

5. Weigh your filler material. I had 1 kg of pellets, and two socks to make, each with 4 sections (2x4=8) so I used 1,000g/8 = 125 g for each section. Weigh out the amount (whatever you calculate yours to be), into a small measuring cup or bowl. If you only have heel pain, then just make pockets for the heel region — adapt as necessary!

6. Carefully unfold / open up the gap between the inner and outer socks to reveal the heel opening into the pocket you've just sewn. Carefully pour in your first lot of filler. A funnel can help, or something with a spout.


7. Fold back the socks as they were, shake down the filler to the toe of the sock, and put in the darning mushroom again. Using herringbone stitch (or another stretch stitch), hand sew across the first horizontal line, sealing in the toe section of weighted filler.

8. Repeat this procedure until all the other sections have been filled, then sew the heel opening closed.

Stitching lines

9. Distribute the filling as you like across the sole of the foot, and sew the vertical divider line, if you so desire.

10. Make the second sock! Rejoice!

Obviously these are not designed to be walked in! You may look like some weird alien footed beast — totally worth it! Plus it's an emergency cosh if you ever need to whack someone over the head while in bed ... Hang on, just a minute (fumble to remove sock), OK, now hold still while I hit you over the head! It would not totally work.

Completed sock being worn

Filling materials

Less heavy but cheaper options are sand or a fine gravel. You would need to enclose sand in a plasticised fabric (PVC, oilcloth, heavy plastic bag etc), to ensure it doesn't leak out. Plastic pellets are used often for weighted blankets, as they're washable. They aren't as heavy as the metal balls, though.

Warning: Do not trim back the top sock layer! I tried this on my first pair, to reduce fabric bulk, and it meant the sock no longer had the strength to hold the heavy weighted sole on my foot. I had to remove the pellets, and throw out the socks. You need both layers of the doubled sock to hold the thing in place.

17 June 2014

Lip Biopsy — What to Expect

Gross photos warning ... pics are small, if you really want to see them close up, click on the pics.

For the last 9 months, I've had constant lower facial numbness and asymmetric swelling of my lips — it may be a sarcoidosis thing. So eventually my immunologist ordered a lip biopsy for me, for joy. Mainly to see if there is any need to increase my medication. It's worth mentioning that every nurse and doctor I mentioned the biopsy to shuddered.

I had the biopsy last week. The oral maxillofacial (OMF) surgeons did a professional job, and were nice guys, but they really didn't prepare me in any way for the recovery period. And any hospital information sheets I found online mentioned 'some discomfort' after the local anaesthetic has worn off. LIES!

So I thought it might help others if I document about what to expect during and after a salivary gland / lip biopsy.

Before

I had an initial appointment with the OMF team a few weeks before the procedure.

On the day of the procedure, I took 10 mg of diazepam — let's just say I was a tiny bit anxious about the whole thing. I started on prophylactic antibiotics, too, but that's unusual — this was because I'm on heavy immune suppression already, and have an artificial hip (which is always at risk from infections). It's not typical for most patients.

During

I was seated in a reclining 'dentist's chair' sort of thing, and given sunglasses to wear (to block out the bright light), and my body was covered by a sterile green sheet. Then I was given three injections of local anaesthetic, into the lower lip, inside, down near the gum — right, middle, and left. They stung a bit, and were a bit painful, but bearable. Then I was left in the chair for 10-15 minutes while the anaesthetic worked its magic.

The biopsy itself took about 15-20 minutes. One surgeon held my lower lip out, and the other carefully cut out 5 salivary glands. Then he put in a row if stitches, which was very neatly done (no cut ends of thread sticking out into my mouth, everything was tucked away nicely). The incision was about 1 cm long, vertical, near the front of my lip. It didn't bleed all that much, either. I kept my eyes closed most of the time, only so much one needs to see of such things, after all!

Immediately After

Very relieved it was over! My lower lip was extremely swollen, not surprisingly, and very very numb (damn good stuff, that local). I was told to avoid drinking anything hot while the local was still working, to avoid accidental burns. I also had an antiseptic mouth wash to use three times a day, to keep the area clean. Easy. Here's what it looked like, after the blood was mopped up.

Stitches on inner lip after biopsy

After the Local Wore Off

HOLY FUCK

After about 3 hours, my dear friend, local anaesthetic, went away. It was not a pretty sight. Let's just mention stumbling downstairs to my children, weeping, unable to speak ... horrific pain. Really fucking awful. About a 9-10 on Allie's Pain Scale.

My son dashed out to buy me some Panadeine (we inexplicably had none in the house), and my daughter looked after me.

This was not 'some discomfort'. This was 'Kill me now, please' stuff. I don't know if the surgeon had cut some particularly important nerve, or if there's just so many damn nerves in the lips that it's inevitable, and I can't say whether my experience is typical or not. You may not have it as bad as this. But ... better to be prepared.

You will (probably) need heavy duty pain meds! You may need a script for something like Panadol Forte (ie something with a fair bit of codeine in it). At least lay in the strongest over-the-counter pain meds you can get. I react badly to opiates now, so it says a lot that the nasty side effects of opiates (the codeine in the Panadeine in this case) were preferable to the pain from the biopsy.

You also need an ice pack. The ice pack is your friend. Wrap it in a cloth. Don't leave it on your skin non-stop, otherwise you risk damaging the skin. 10 min on, 10 min off, that sort of deal.

I spent the rest of the day whimpering on the couch, doped on Panadeine, with an ice pack on my mouth, while my kids tried to distract me with Death in Paradise episodes ... I was able to sip a little milky tea through a straw, and a little soup. No talking, no eating, nothing that involved moving my lips at all. Intermittent weeping.

The Next Day

Could talk sorta kinda, in a mumbly way. Able to eat mushy things (applesauce, yoghurt etc) from a spoon, and tea through a straw. Still on pain medication every 4 hours. And I could tell the instant it wore off. Another not fun day, although not as bad as the previous day. Mostly curled up on the couch, watching TV, or knitting.

Lip looked like this now. Impressive bruise, huh?

Bruise on inner lip


The Next Next Day

Able to talk a bit more, and able to eat a little more, although still sticking to soft mushy things and sounding a bit drunk. The bruise started to 'fall through' to the front of my face. Still needing regular Panadol.

Six Days After the Biopsy

Each day, naturally, things got a bit better. The bruise is a lot less now. I can talk normally, but wouldn't want to talk for too long. My lower lip still feels lumpy and aches constantly.  I'm not needing pain meds any more. Still using the antiseptic mouth wash.

If I tried to eat anything thick (like a bite from a hamburger), it would still hurt a fair bit. Still being careful about chewing. Can't rest my chin on a pillow, for instance, as that hurts  too much. I think the dissolving stitches might be starting to dissolve.

This is how things look now — inner bruise has mostly moved to being an external bruise below my lips :

Lip biopsy, inner lip after six days

Bruise below lips

Two Weeks Afterwards the Biopsy

It. Still. Hurts.


The wound is healing well, and the bruising is all gone. Stitches are starting to dissolve. But it still feels like there's something caught between my lip and gum (which, of course, there is). And it aches constantly. Eating still hurts a bit. And if I talk too much, it hurts more. I can't comfortably rest my chin on anything. And bumping my lip on anything hurts a lot. Getting there, but s l o w l y.

Three Weeks After

It still hurts around the biopsy site, and the surrounding lip area, but the more 'widespread' pain has eased off. Current theory is the surgeon damaged a nerve. They also took out a fair bit of muscle tissue, which makes recovery more painful. Even still, this level of pain post-op is unusual. My immunologist suggested Lignocaine Gel (available in pharmacies without a script) and it's pretty fabulous stuff. Wish I'd had it three weeks ago!

Biopsy was all clear, too, no sign of sarc. So we don't know what's causing the swelling, but it's not the sarc. I'm disappointed, but a null result is still useful information.

Four Weeks Later

Was still in pain, so I went back to see the oral surgeon. They removed the undissolved stitches (an extremely painful procedure). The theory is that I was reacting badly to the suture material. No sign of nerve damage, thankfully. 

Within a few hours of removal, the whole area started to feel better, and a day later there's almost no pain! Bliss! So this theory seems to be right. 

Moral of the whole sorry tale : if you're in bad, ongoing pain around the biopsy site, go back to the surgeon, much sooner than I did. 

I hope that this might help you, if you have to have one of these horrible things too. Pain meds and ice packs are your friends. Get Lignocaine Gel. Don't expect to do too much for a couple of days afterwards, apart from feeling sorry for yourself. Stock up on mushy foods, custard, jelly, applesauce, yoghurt, ice cream, soup, and so on. It is possible to get inflammation and reactions to the various suture materials. Hopefully you won't be anywhere near as badly affected as I was.

And if the hospital tells you there may be 'some discomfort', laugh in its face, bitterly.

07 April 2014

Another moving experience

Apologies for disappearing for quite some time ... we decided to start looking for a new place to rent in late February, and things moved unexpectedly quickly!


So — after several horrendous weeks of which we shall not speak — we are back in Weston Creek.  Very happy to be back in the area, and on a quiet suburban street. Ten years of living on main roads has been wearing. We're much closer to Mt Stromlo, and our other main destinations (largely doctors and the hospital).

Our new place has a downstairs area for the kids (one of our main reasons for moving, to find a place with a more separate living space for them, seeing as they're not able to afford to live independently yet). It comes complete with a full bar (including — bizarrely — cash drawer, sink, and three drinks fridges), wood-burning stove, small bathroom, and several rooms, and internal access to a big garage (glass workshop). 

Upstairs is for Hubby and me — four bedrooms (Hubby has his own study for the first time), kitchen with a gas stove and saucepan drawers (where have you been all my life?!), good sunny living areas, and two porchy / balcony thingies. With views!


The garden is leafy and lovely to be in (unlike our last place), and there is a paved area under cover for entertaining, too. The pups are adapting to the new surroundings, and we're all gradually settling in. The question of 'Where is ...' is less frequently answered with 'In a box somewhere!' so I guess that's progress!

We've not unpacked at least half of our boxes, and are loving the simpler minimalist feel of the upstairs section (kids' area is another matter!). So I still want to sort and declutter the rest of our stuff, and only store a bare minimum.

I calculated that this is the 27th home I've lived in. And the house in Gordon was the longest, at just over 6 years! No moss on this stone! But I am rather over the whole 'moving house' thing ... don't want to do this too many more times.