So far in this column about Living with Lymphedema, I have walked you through my days in school. Now we shall move on into my 20’s or what I call the working years. A lot of dreams were shattered for me when it came to the downfall of my educational experience. I had always been very computer savvy both with their use and their construction. As many of my generation had, we set forth priming toward a career in the amazing and quickly growing world of computers in the 1990’s.
Well, as you would expect reading this now, those dream jobs were not as plentiful as first hoped. Having no diploma I of course was limited in my monetary pursuits. I had lost touch with a lot of the people I had done computer work for when Dad died.
I did however manage to deliver pizza, work for a privately operated gas station chain, stock auto parts, and drive a 21 foot box truck. Life was hard work and tiring by the time the driving job came. I not only had to drive it but load and unload it at like 10 different locations around Baltimore, Maryland. My morning and night commute just to and from the truck storage location was a journey too. Living 30 some miles outside of the City of Baltimore this added an additional hour both ways. This is where the Lymphedema reared its ugly head.
So engrossed in earning a pay check, and the recent birth of my first and only child I really was not taking very good care of myself. Add on top of this not having the proper fitting compression garments that I needed. I developed a nasty rub sore on my left calf. I nursed this sore for about two weeks until the symptoms I new from the past one night returned. The chills, the pain in the groin nodes, the tell-tale signs that an infection had once again spread through my leg.
Now I must say that I had small flair ups here and there in the previous jobs, but they were quickly handled with oral antibiotic attention. Knowing this had evolved beyond home treatment I was taken to the emergency room.
Now emergency room visits with Lymphedema tend to be a little confusing. Most emergency room physicians until recently had never heard of lymphedema, most will fixate on the swelling and believe that you are suffering from a blood clot, which could not be further from the reality.
So after the usual million questions and a few unneeded tests I was admitted for a few days. Usually after 24 hours of IV antibiotics I would begin to feel better, This time though was much worse, not only was I battling the infection, but physical exhaustion, and a wound. I was in rough shape.
I did the responsible thing, I called my employer and apprised them of my situation. I was met with hostility and was told they could not hold my job. Ok, Great now let’s add depression on top of everything, unemployed, ill, and a wife and kid. Boy, I’m winning the game now.
A few days later, I was released from the hospital and had to undergo home IV therapy. God bless my Mother because I have no idea how I would have managed my Son with an IV while my wife was at work. That episode knocked the fire out of me so hard that it would be a good year before I felt well and strong enough to return to working. I spent that year playing Mr. Mom, and those are times I would never want to take back.
After recovering and regaining my strength for that year I again went out to hit the working world. I registered with a ‘temp’ service and waited to hear about possible data entry positions. Eventually a job did come around at a local distribution center for a major national pharmacy chain. Well, it turned out the job entailed much more than sitting at a desk punching numbers in all day. I would have to walk multiple football field lengths a day locating storage bins, verifying the contents and quantity and then only after I have validated this list return to my desk and make the inventory corrections. This job had its perks, but alas history indeed did repeat and the lymphedema had to have its say. No wounds this time, but fatigue beyond comparison.
I once again recovered and found myself looking once again for employment. A good friend had acquired a position at a local private security firm. I had obtained my diploma by this time a took a position with this company as a desk guard of a residential tower. I had my flair ups, but this company was very good to me. I even moved onward into uniformed vehicle assignments, and other details. I migrated through several security firms looking for the better money. I enjoyed the work and had obtained several certifications in that time. Come about 2003, the fatigue of the long hours got to be too much, my swelling in my legs from the lymphedema had become beyond noticeable.
With a lot of convincing of my wife at the time, and some close friends I decided to stop working and apply for social security disability. I also began physical therapy. I had went through the specialized physical therapy for this condition before, but with working the benefits of the therapy went out the windows quickly.
Many people today can continue a productive career with Lymphedema. The therapy and compressive devices have advanced dramatically over the last 20 years. My body however sad to say has been beaten enough by the lymphedema and other unrelated health matters that I no longer can. As a result I spend my time writing articles like this and tend to my other projects.
I hope I have not bored you with my extensive history, but I find it very important for you to understand the beginnings and progression of my life with lymphedema. I could have expanded upon so much. The discomfort of swelling, the trouble with uniforms, and so much more but for those of you reading who already suffer from lymphedema, you already get it.
Now that we have caught up to the present here in 2017 I will be focusing this article more toward living with Lymphedema and the treatment process from here on out. Thanks for reading.