October 28th, 2014

angry, angry Elmer Fudd

Mostly acupuncture and insurance

I had my first acupuncture appointment yesterday at AIMC (Acupuncture and Integrative Medicine College) and am hesitant to go back.

I saw a team of 3 "junior level" interns, because they are the least expensive, and quite liked the interns themselves (Kelly, Heidi, and Takeshi—Heidi did all the needling) but actively disliked their supervisor (a tiny old Chinese woman whose name I did not catch) and some of their school practices.

First of all, they practice "bloodletting" and took blood from my toe. They said this was going to be a pin prick to take "a couple drops of blood," but it felt like the intern was trying to cut my toe off! Not only that, but she stabbed my toe twice, because she apparently didn't do it correctly the first time. I started feeling faint after this, and so the teacher told her not to do the second toe they'd been planning to stab. Thank god.

Second, herbs seem to be a major part of the standard treatment here, and my nephrologist has strictly forbidden me from taking Chinese herbs. He had a couple of patients suffer complete kidney failure while using Chinese herbs and so is very cautious. I didn't even have to mention him, though, because when I mentioned the kidney disease, the interns themselves decided to only do acupuncture and not recommend any herbs. I liked that; it seemed respectful and appropriately cautious. When in doubt, don't do anything that could hurt my kidneys!

Third, and most important, the "expert" teacher/supervisor asked me about my kidney disease diagnosis, then dismissed it entirely. She asked me my creatinine number, then waved a hand and said my kidneys are fine. Bitch, my kidneys are not fine, and I'm not letting you give me herbs that my nephrologist has strictly forbidden.

I'd been hoping for alternative medicine that could work in concert with my other treatments, and it sounded like this woman (and therefore this school?) has no respect at all for western medicine. She told me to bring in my lab results and diagnosis information next time I come in (and I was thinking silently, "IF I come back"), and I wasn't sure which "diagnosis information" she meant, since every doctor I've seen and every website I've visited have identified my creatinine numbers as within the CKD stage III range. Do I need to explain to her the definition of stage III chronic kidney disease?

Fourth, my head was feeling somewhat better immediately after the treatment, but I developed one of my worst headaches EVER about 3-4 hours later. This may be coincidental, since I develop horrendous headaches quite commonly, or it may be that the effect wore off, since the acupuncture folks had told me that the pain relief would last longer with each treatment (they recommended a course of 6 treatments, once a week). Either way, last night I ended up with a headache that left me absolutely helpless and sobbing, which makes me instinctively less disposed to go back to AIMC.

So I'm not sure what I want to do. It's probably best to give acupuncture another try—since one treatment doesn't really provide sufficient data about whether this could help with my headaches—but I really really don't like that teacher's attitude about my kidney disease. It makes me worry that she would instruct the interns to be cavalier about my kidney health, without me understanding what they were doing. And it makes me concerned about the overall attitude of the school itself. Do they, as a whole, have so little respect for western medicine? Would they push herbs at me? If there is any chance that these people will do (or pressure me to do) something that will negatively impact my kidneys, I want to give them a very wide berth.

Of course, professional, licensed, Medicare-approved acupuncturists might have a different approach, but I can't see one of them unless I go ahead and sign up for the extra "alternative health care" package to add to my insurance, and we're trying to figure out whether it would be worth the money before we sign me up for that. But until I have that additional insurance, professional acupuncturists are too expensive. It's like a Catch-22.

Of course, it would cost a grand whopping total of $228 for an entire year of the additional "alternative health care" package, and it would give me access to a number of different services (including a free gym membership to the same gym where Julia goes!). I'm thinking that getting that add-on insurance and giving a professional acupuncturist a try might be the way to go. Plus, I'd be able to go to a gym, where I could get good exercise without worrying about staggering around town with headaches that impair my judgment (and a right foot that hurts like hell). And where I might be able to work out with Julia, helping both of us get more exercise! I haven't been getting a reasonable amount of exercise in several months, since the cataract started really messing with my vision, which was around the start of the year! Also, the additional insurance would cover chiropractors, and I wouldn't mind giving them a go at the headache situation.


In non-acupuncture-but-still-headache-related news, I've been doing some research about whether dietary factors might be affecting my headaches, but most of the diet-related information I've found pertains specifically to migraines, and my headaches are definitely not migraines. I've had migraines before, and these are not them (especially because I have no sensitivity to light, smell, sound, etc.). I'm continuing to research, though, and am considering experimenting with cutting out refined sugar for a while.

But today I see the neurologist, and I'm hoping to get a more accurate diagnosis and treatment plan, now that he will be able to examine me sans codeine. I wonder if I'm the only person who gets excited about doctor appointments. I always have this hope that they will be able to provide answers!

Also, I've been working on an art project for the first time in months, inspired by my CWC intern, Sara. It's another self-portrait, and this one (unsurprisingly) is mostly about headaches and fragmented thinking. It's great to be doing art again!