Sunday, October 30, 2011

Is Education a 'Bubble' that will burst soon?

We've all been hearing the news from the United States about how college and university education is becoming so expensive that if students aren't walking out with a piece of paper and a mountain of debt, they're dropping out with a slightly smaller 'hill' of debt.  Students make up a large percentage of people fed up and holding up pizza box protest signs at the Occupy events around the world.

So what does all this mean for Education in North America, and specifically for the United States?

On the one hand you've got people who chose to forfeit furthering their education, and took a gamble on being able to find a place that will hire someone without a piece of paper, hoping that they'll be able to compete in the workforce by skill and hard work alone, and attempt to work their way up the salary ladder from a lower pay grade than someone with an education, and have little to no debt.

Then on the other hand you've got people who did choose to go to post-secondary, spend time, money, and effort investing in their future, racked up a very often substantial debt. The debt is SO much of a problem, that it's actually predicted by some that post-secondary education is now something so unattainable in the United States, that education alone will start to decrease. I heard some stats from the States recently that said non-traditional, part-time students are now the norm (at a staggering 75% of students). Considering those same students are also commuters, often with families and jobs on top of school, it's no wonder that in places like Texas, for every 100 students enrolled in a public college, 79 started at a community college, and only 2 of them graduated on time. That sounds drastic but get this, after 4 years only 7 of them graduated on time. Of the 21 of those 100 who enrolled in a 4 year program, only 5 graduated on time. After 8 years, only 13 actually earned a degree. Only 25.6% of people enrolled part-time earn a bachelor's degree after EIGHT YEARS.

The bitch of it truly is, the government keeps plowing money into things like student loan organizations so that more people can theoretically go to college. But the more money the government throws into 'education', the more other companies start raising prices on things like text books, dorm rooms, public transit, etc. This makes going to college full time in the United States damned near impossible if you're paying your own way (and sometimes even if you have help from family).

Here's another fun trend going on in the United States right now: there are actually people who are considered 'professional students' who are only in college because they're 'waiting out' the recession. Only to hear from media and whatever other sources that the recession is now over (which it isn't) so they finally leave college looking for those promised jobs that you definitely get from going to college (which you don't), and sure that they'll be better off than people who never bothered to go to college (which they won't be). And these are actually people with workforce degrees; architects, engineers, teachers, etc.

So what does all this mean? Is college worth it anymore? DOES college actually guarantee you're going to get a job anymore? And even if you do get a job, what are the chances you'll be able to plow through all your debt to actually live your life and reap the benefits of your education?

Interesting link for further reading on this subject:
The Staggering Growth of Student Loans

And more links on Education in general:
Do Schools Kill Creativity?
Changing Education Paradigms

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Goodbye Oxycontin

I haven't posted in a few days as things got a little sketchy.  I started my stretching and muscle-rebuilding exercises here at home two days ago, and I gotta say it's SLOOOW going.  I don't know who these people are that I see in youtube videos but clearly they are either holographs or mutants, because 5 inches off the floor and (even with proper breathing techniques and complete structure support for my other leg) I was ready to pass out from the pain.  I did manage to finish the ones I was supposed to do, but I have some SERIOUS doubts about being able to bend my leg to 90 degrees by my post-op on Monday.  I have a feeling that the recommendation is for those who haven't had meniscus repair because I was having flashes of memory (or maybe just wishful thinking) that the nurses did tell me COMPLETE bed rest till the post-op and then the surgeon would update me on what I had to do next.

So other than the exercise bit (which I definitely paid for later), yesterday was my last day on the Oxycontin.  I took my last dose at 10am and bit the proverbial bullet as I went through my usual invalid routine for the day, waiting for that last dose to wear off.  After I did my exercises yesterday afternoon, once the 2pm meds took effect, I laid down and passed out fell asleep until my 6pm dose was due.  Unfortunately for them, my inlaws came by to say hello about 15 minutes after I took my 6pm dose and I was... shall we say a little less than social.  I was tired, sore, and that two hour period from the hour before to the hour after I take my scheduled doses, I am not a peach to be around.  So of course I tried to keep my sh*t together till they left... and boy was I glad I did...

As soon as the front door closed, I pretty much lost all control.

There is something profound that happens to a person when they are tested over long periods of time.  When their pain threshold is tested, their patience, their humility, their independence, their attention span... everyone has their limits and at times the only thing you can do is reach that breaking point and accept that you just need to get it over with and BREAK.

I have a pretty high pain threshold, and there's a lot I can take.  But stack on top of that the effects of medications that make you feel like you have no control of your body at all, an injury that demands you remain in one position and one position ONLY for whoknowshowlong, a digestive system that is completely shot because of the poison meds you need to take, chronic exhaustion from never really getting restful sleep for several days in a row, and the growing sensation of itching and odd new pains cropping up in, around and near all the places they worked on your injury, and the muscle spasms that happen increasingly as your muscles begin to repair themselves and as the graft screwed into your bone begins to heal... if sitting here bawling my eyes out until I almost vomited is the worst that happens when I reach that point, I'll take it.  Gladly.

Sometimes you just have to let yourself break.

So fast forward to Zero Hour.
10pm on October 28
When the pain resets, and I really get to feel what the Oxycontin has been hiding from me. 

Usually my pain starts to rear it's horrible head about an hour or so before my next round is due.  So at about nine-ish last night I made sure to distract myself with lots of thing on the laptop so I wouldn't notice quite so much.  It actually worked pretty well, despite the usual dull ache that never seems to really completely go away.  Then around 10:20 I started feeling different areas of my body clearing up from the Oxycontin leaving my system.  I won't run a list of all of them, but believe me I was VERY surprised how much was in pain and I never knew it.  Thankfully, I am still on the Percocet, and that I also take at 10pm, so what I was feeling was through that as well.  Most of what I was feeling was aches and pains from areas related to being bed-bound; from laying around so much, from hoisting myself up with my arms, from walking on one leg with crutches, etc.

I'm happy to say that I've now missed two doses of the Oxycontin and I think it's safe to say it's finally completely out of my system.  I'm pretty achy today, in a LOT of places I wasn't yesterday but at least I don't have to feel that cloudy feeling or worry about becoming addicted and having to suffer the pain of withdrawal.

In other news, earlier today I thought I'd be brave and check out my incision sites.  Well I'll save you the suspense, I got one look at some bloody gauze and felt the gauze sticking to one of the staples and totally lost my nerve.  I put the surgical sock back up on my leg and then put the brace back on and huddled back in the corner of the bed where I belong.  I can watch all the medical shows I want but seeing that kind of thing on myself is a whole different story.  Guess I'm just a big baby like everybody else after all haha ;)

Anyway, so that's what's been up the last couple days.  I go for my 1 week post-op on Monday where the surgeon is supposed to tell me about physio, and the rest of the hard stuff that I can expect for the next several months.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Only Getting Better

I'm happy to report that a mere two days after surgery and I'm beginning to be more mobile.  The pain has reduced (from an average of 7-8ish on the day of the surgery to about an average of 4-5ish today).  I've gotten a pretty good method down for using my crutches so they don't hurt my hands as much.  I'm actually getting hungry for the first time since before surgery, and with the increased mobility that's pretty good timing since I can (with a little effort) get to the kitchen and nibble a bit.  I'm also able to lift my leg with my arms easier now, so I don't necessarily need someone to help me in and out of bed and such anymore.

I think a lot of the improvements have actually been getting my timing right for things.  Such as since I know I take my meds on the 2, 6, and 10 (2am, 6am, 10am, 2pm, 6pm, 10pm) and I know that for the first hour the Percocet makes me quite nauseous if I move around too much, I can figure out how much I can eat and drink, at what times of the day, and I know when it's easiest on my stomach and on the pain in my knee when I move around based on those times.  It's all about those little details I suppose.

Ahh and speaking of which... Oxycontin makes my brain pretty fuzzy and makes it hard to focus on one thing or even keep my eyes open.  So it's a safe bet that for a couple hours after I take my two doses of that each day it's best I just sleep.  Thankfully sleeping seems to be working wonders for the healing as well, which is great.

Probably something people won't want to hear about is what I'm actually able to feel.  There is one spot just below my knee cap on my left, where I can feel one of the staples occasionally... it's incredibly unpleasant but I guess it could be worse :P  There are some specific areas where I'm starting to feel what I can only imagine are 'healing pains' so I pretty much just keep reminding myself 'it's only going to get better from here'.  And of course all the itchiness that accompanies the usual healing.  It's just too bad you can't scratch inside your bones haha.

In any case, I'm very thankful for all the phone calls, texts, emails, flowers, and such.  Even if I am all drugged up and don't make a very good conversationalist most of the time, know that I absolutely appreciate each of you who has expressed your well wishes :)  Love you guys tons!!

Two Days after the Worst Day of my Life

I almost wish the title of this was hyperbole or even mildly exaggerated.  Unfortunately of all the things I've seen, the horrific news delivered like a blow to my stomach, even the news of death couldn't compare to the blinding pain on that first day after surgery.

A couple things I've learned that I wouldn't have even thought about:

  • Using crutches regularly will bruise your armpits and the palms of your hands quickly
  • Using crutches with only one good leg will actually work your lower abs, your obliques and of course your glutes (your bum) on the good side.
  • Having to allow your bad leg to 'dangle lifelessly' so you aren't trying to flex the muscles will eventually wear on your groin muscle on that leg.
  • Percocet can make you simultaneously itchy, nauseous and tired
  • Percocet and Oxycontin taken together will require you to also take stool softeners (hurray!)
  • Having multiple ice packs on rotation in the freezer makes a BIG difference. (I have four)
  • Having somebody around, even if they're not doing anything specific is much more relaxing than being laid up and alone.
  • Having something to do while you're laying around all day is key.  (I have my laptop, my blackberry, and several movies I can access through our wireless home network)
  • If you feel like you need to sleep, just sleep.  Nothing NEEDS to get done, so just sleep as much as your body wants you to
  • Don't overdo anything... the last thing I want is to blow a staple and have to go in and have them refasten me up (shudder)

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

The Day After Yesterday

This time yesterday I was looking up from my place on the table into the kind but intense eyes of the nice older lady about to put me to sleep.  It would be two hours later that I'd wake up in the recovery, drowsy, disoriented, and just overall feeling like I got hit by a Mack truck.  In fact, I'd just had an ACL (Anterior Cruciate Ligament) Hamstring reconstruction and a medial meniscus repair on my right knee.

A nurse popped a pill in my mouth and held up a disposable plastic cup with a bendy straw and said, "Drink."  Pill #1 was Oxycontin.  About an hour passed and they finally wheeled me back into my 'room' (just a curtained-off area with a bed, chair and one of those clever rolling tables for your gimpy convenience). They paged Eric and between my anesthetic and oxycontin hazes I think I vaguely recall him showing up, trying to smile at me but he's a man and I could practically smell the worry mingled with relief dripping off him.

Some time over the next several house, the local anesthetic began to wear off.  It was also about this time that those busy bee nurses decided they needed to see me navigate around on my crutches.  Sure! And for my next trick I'll pull a rainbow out of my ear and marry a water buffalo!

Well it was about this time as well that one of the students working asked me to rate my pain on a scale of 1 to 10 (1 being no pain, 10 being the worst pain you'd ever felt in your life).  Well wasn't I pleased as punch that she asked because I was in fact teetering on the edge between a 7 and 8 and about to chew my own leg off bear-trap style.  So the student ran off to find me some of my other new best friend, Percocet, and I began staring hatefully at the crutches leaning against the side of the bed.  Thankfully, they gave me about 30 minutes for the Percocet to start taking the edge off and then the two nurses descended on me, ushering me off the bed and onto the crutches.  Well imagine my surprise when I realize that for me to get off the bed, these women were going to have pick up my stapled, screwed, bruised, and sutured leg and hold it for me while I got up.  I can't even begin to explain the excruciating pain that spread through my leg as the one nurse tried to help me to the edge of the bed.  All I can say is I started to hyperventilate and tears were pouring down my cheeks as profanities vomited from my throat...  They set my leg back down and the student nurse tactfully handed me a box of tissues to help me compose myself.

Now, just take a moment, if you will, to consider that I had had about 3 hours of sleep from the night before, hadn't eaten anything since 7:30 the day before, had just had serious, extensive and incredibly painful surgery, and I was medicated to the gills with pain meds and on top of that these women wanted me to do WHAT.

Well eventually I managed to stop crying long enough to do what they wanted, and I even managed a couple very pathetic looking hops with my good leg while my bad leg just sort of hung there.  Once I had that finished to the nurses' satisfaction I was able to start dressing and making plans to head home.

I'll spare you the details of how awkward and painful that whole ordeal was, but suffice it to say that we got to the apartment  building with little incident.

I will share a somewhat funny quip about how the only reason I'm even in the apartment at all is due to my brilliant plan of navigating the 3 flights of stairs to the top.  Crutches weren't gonna work... using Eric as a brace wasn't gonna work... so eventually I sat down on the step, bad leg completely supported, sticking straight out in Eric's hands, and I scooted up all those damned stairs.  I really REALLY hope none of my neighbors saw how pathetically humbled I was scooting up the stairs on my bum... but even that wasn't as bad as when I got inside and realized I had to pee.  Let me tell ya... there is really nothing as humbling as having someone hold your leg for you while you pee... (lol).

So now it's the day after surgery.  I can move around on the crutches a bit better but I still can't hold the weight of my leg, so whenever I need to get up or go to the bathroom or even shift in bed, I need someone here to hold my leg while I maneuver around.  I've got three total ice packs on rotation on my knee, I've got my laptop, my blackberry, water, gatorade, coffee, tissue and a bowl just in case the Percocet betrays me again like it did at 2am this morning.

All in all, this is the worst experience of my life and I am very anxious to get past all this.  Thanks to everyone for all the well-wishes and words of encouragement.  I'll keep everyone updated as often as my meds allow me.