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I don't use LiveJournal as my daily blog anymore as I only know a few people on LJ and only a small number of those people are active. Instead I use Facebook, which can be found at http://www.facebook.com/people/Dustin-Hartman/63702411 Unfortunately Facebook won't allow me to make my entire profile public, so you will have to join to see everything, which only takes a couple of minutes. Ill still use LiveJournal for big posts, but if you really wanna keep track of me go to Facebook.

This blog is mainly public but sensitive information is marked "friends-only".  If you would like to read that information, please let me know and I will add your LiveJournal account to my "friends list".

Tethered Cord Surgery #3

I apologize for the length, this is party for my benefit to help me keep it all stright.

Let’s start from the beginning.  In the womb every fetus has two spinal cords, one for the left side of the body and one for the right side.  As the fetus grows those two cords start to combine into one, starting from the brain and working its way down.  In my case the cords combined until they hit a tiny little bone spur in my vertebraes that kept the cords from combining.  So I have two spinal cords (hemicords) from my rib cage going down (it’s called Diastematomyelia).  When I was born everything appeared normal.

Fast forward to when I was four years old, which is the first big growth spurt in children.  God designed our vertebrae to wrap around the spinal cord pretty snuggly.  The problem in my case was that there was not enough room inside the vertebraes for two cords, so as I grew the cords started to get squished (it’s called Tethered Spinal Cord Syndrome).  The problem with having a tethered spinal cord is that the cord starts to get stretched which causes damage to the nerves.  Eventually the nerves in the cord get stretched so much they start to break (which causes weakness\numbness in the lower extremities).

So when I was four I had an “exploratory” surgery.  My neurosurgeon opened me up from my neck to my butt crack (I have an AWESOME scar).  He went in and removed the “dinosaur plates” on my spine (Laminectomy) and then fixed several issues.  He made more room for my cord; remove some cysts, and grinded down the bone spur which caused the cords to not join in utero.

Fast forward to when I was twelve, which is the second big growth spurt.  Same thing happened, my cord was tethered due to growth so they had to go back in and make more room for it.  The other big change was I had developed full blown kyphoscoliosis.  Thankfully the curvature didn’t get bad enough to diminish my lung capacity or else I would have had to get rods on the vertebrae to straighten them out.

Fast forward to today, I’m thirty now. I have gotten MRI’s every year after to watch it just to make sure things aren’t getting cramped again.  About five years ago the MRI’s showed that the cord had started to tether again with another syrinx forming.  However at that time it was not producing symptoms so we just watched it with the idea that it may never need fixing.

Finally on January 30th we buried my sweet little granny.  Unfortunately I didn’t deal with the grief very well (I didn’t deal with it at all) and the stress of all of that finally pushed me over the edge.  I started out with fever, chills, and then a full blow UTI.  That then led to kidney pain, intestinal pain, weakness and numbness in my legs and hands and horrible migraines.   For almost two months I went from specialist to specialist treating each condition since they seemingly were not related.  I did not correlate them back to my spine primarily because they came on all of the sudden.  Finally I went to an amazing urologist (Dr. Niall Galloway) who specialized in patients with my types of issue.  Within five minutes he recognized that I had Klippel-Feil syndrome and that all of my different problems were related to my spinal cord.  I had my second surgery at the beginning of my growth spurt, but for a few years after I continued to grow, thereby causing more cramping in the spine.  Now that I am thirty I won’t be growing anymore, so hopefully once I get untethered now it will never happen again.

Dr. Galloway explained that I had slowly been getting worse over the last years, but it was so slow that I didn’t notice the symptoms.  Looking back on it now I do see how I was deteriorating but I just was so busy with life in general I didn’t notice.  The problem with the damage that occurs as a result of the tethering is that it’s not reversible.  The untethering surgery will only stop the damage from getting worse; it won’t reverse any damage that has already occurred.  So, in an ironic\sweet\morbid kind of way Granny took care of me one last time….if she wouldn’t have passed now then the irreversible damage would have continued to get worse until I finally noticed it on my own, but by that point I probably would have been in a wheelchair or worse.  It’s kind of sweet to think that Granny took care of me my whole life, from a baby right up to the end when she did one last great thing for me….*tears up*

So, on Friday (4/25/13) I will be having my third untethering surgery.  Dr. Kenneth Hill with Emory will be doing it at Kennestone hospital.  He is going to open me up from my chest all the way down and will cut out the scar tissue that is causing the issues.  While he is in there he is going to remove another cyst, and will grind down another bone spur inside the canal.  This will be another exploratory type surgery, he basically is going to open me up and then under a microscope fix anything he can find.  The surgery is expected to last about six hours and then I’ll be in the hospital for 5-7 days.  After that I will come home and start rehab.  If all goes well I will be back to work in one to three months.

I am so very thankful that I have a job which not only pays for this VERY expensive operation, but also a job that has an amazing short term disability policy so that I can take this much paid time off….I’m very fortunate to be working for IBM right now.  In addition I am most thankful that I have a wife that seems to be able to do everything.  She has practically been a single mom for the last few months, a full time caregiver for me, and running the household pretty much on her own.  She does it all with a smile and never complains, even when Toby keeps her up all night she still seems to be able to juggle everything.  I have no idea how she does it, nor do I know how I was able to find such an amazing woman to fall in love with.

With God watching over us we will get through this and be better off when it’s all over.  I believe God still has work for me to do here, whether I’m running marathons or pimping my wheel chair, I'm still so fortunate and blessed…..after all, when life gives you a lemon, make lemon-aid :-D

Janky Feet

  Just posted some x-rays from the podiatrist on Facebook...if you think you have messed up feet you ain't got nothing on me. He had to take part of my toenail off to relieve a hematoma (Thanks Erica Hartman) and he ended up doing a tendon release on my pinky toe that had completely curled underneath my foot. He said as I get older they are just going to get worse, so I might as well go ahead and get them all straighted soon, which apparently is a big process, they have to insert rods in all of them. He also said that my ankle is going to need some work eventually, and also my knees....Elizabeth says I'm deformed, my mommy said I was special

Weight Loss Surgery

I'll be updating this entry with further information as I (or Elizabeth) recalls it.  I am doing this so I can remember the details in the months and years to come

Nov 24th-Dec 1st:
    I was on an all liquid diet.  Mainly slim-fast, pudding, Jello, and grits.  Unfortunately either the pudding or slim-fast, or both, irritated my lactose intolerance which I was able to get back under control with the daily lactose pills.  I did cheat twice on the diet, once at the lantern with Kevin and Kristen where I ate a TON of shrimp, wings, and fries and then at Aunt Sue's house for Thanksgiving where I just had a little bit of food.  At the time I was around 278ish in my pajamas.

Dec 1st:
    Surgery was very early in the morning.  Elizabeth drove me there and stayed while I was under.  The surgery went well, no problems.  When I first woke up in the ICU I was in a lot of pain.  I remember the nurse, or doctor, or anesthesiologist (not sure but it was a woman) giving me morphine.  I then fell asleep for a short time in pain again, needing more.  This happened at least 3 or 4 times and I remember her telling me that they couldn't give me too much in the ICU, but I would be able to get more once I was in the normal room.  The good news was that I did not have any sort of asthma attack while I was under general anesthesia.  I fell back asleep and work up in my room.  I was in a lot of pain and they gave me more morphine.  As the afternoon\evening went on they kept increasing the amount of morphine they could give me.  Eventually they gave me the max dose of morphine, but it had no effect at all.  The nurse was willing to do anything else so I laid in severe pain.  Finally, my godsend came, the night nurse.  She immediately recognized the amount of pain I was in and called the doctor.  Within 20 minutes she came back to the room with dilaudid which took away the pain immediately.  That is when we realized that I had a morphine tolerance and that I was going to use dilaudid for the rest of my stay.  As I recall I slept the rest of the night.

Dec 2nd:
      The chest congestion\fluid\mucus starts building up in my lungs.

Dec 3rd:
      I am released from the hospital in the late afternoon. 

Dec 4th:
      Sometime just before midnight I was sitting in my chair watching TV.  At that point I was still numb in the new stomach, and not quite used to how it felt yet, so I didn't realize i was full, even though I hadn't really eaten in several hours.  I had some red Jello and within 10 minutes I threw it up.  It concerned me because it was red.  Thinking...and hoping, it was red because of the red jello, I had some brown pudding.  Shortly after I threw it up and it was again red.  I called the doctor office who paiged the on call.  When the on-call doctor called me (she clearly had just woke up) she told me to go to the ER immediately.  Elizabeth woke up about that time (3am) and within 20 minutes we were on the way back to Emory downtown.  At that time I wasn't in too much pain, but I was cold.  When we got to the ER, Elizabeth helped me in to a chair.  Within 2 minutes a very nice male nurse came with a wheel chair and took me to a room.  Once I got up on the bed that is when I started to get VERY cold, to the point that I had the shivers.  I also had a hard time breathing, I was coughing up a lot of muchus (i even coughed some into a cup so the doctor could see).  The more I reclined the more my lungs filled up.  I also started to be in a lot of pain at this point.  We didnt see the doctor for several hours nor did they want to give me any pain medicine.  I don't remember a lot, but I do remember them taking my temp at one point and saying it was 105.5 degrees.  Since I was throwing up blood every hour or so, and coughing up mucus every few minutes, they gave me RX tylenol rectally to bring down the fever.  We were having a lot of problems with the doctor, mainly that she wouldnt come and see us, she kept walking away, and she would not contact Dr. Lyn.  Her boss came in who was very nice, we explained the situation to him and all he could say when we asked to be assigned a different doctor was that he had confidence in the doctor we currently had.  Somewhere along the lines they decided to do a chest x-ray and a ctscan.  Fortunately by that point they have given me the dilaudid so the pain was under control.  The doctor said both the ct-scan of my abdomen and chest x-ray came back negative. 

During this entire process we asked them to call Dr. Lyn but they wouldn't, at one point saying that i was an ER patient not his and this was under there jurisdiction.  Finally, somehow, Dr. Lyn's resident\fellow saw the CT and said that I had a kink in my intestine that caused a blockage which caused everything to back up into my old stomach which had caused it to swell so large it was on the left side of my chest as well.  WIthin the hour I was in the OR.  I remember that before I went in I was in horrible pain, but nobody would give me anything.  They wanted to take me to the OR but I was hysterical I was in so much pain that I declared I would not go to the OR until I had something for the pain.  Then Dr. Lyn's resident lady bypassed the ER doctor and got me the dilaudid which took away all the pain.  The took me in the OR and that is when I met Dr. Lyn's Fellow who did the surgery.  I later found out that Dr. Lyn was in Colorodo, he flew back to ATL but it was too late so he had his fellow do the surgery.   I told his fellow right before they put me under that if he didn't give me a big scar (i.e. do it surgically instead of endoscopically) that I would buy him a beer after ;-D

The exploratory endoscopy went well.  They were able to find the kink and unkink it.  They then sewed it so that it would not kink again and then drained my old stomach.

Dec 7th:
    I came home with the help of the lead nurse who was very very nice.

More to come later


There is a lot going on

Facebook is in almost every way better than LiveJournal, except for blogging.  Sometimes you can't say what all is going on in a little snipet on Facebook (or especially twitter) and you gotta go back to the blog.

So we officially moved into the farm house a few weeks ago.  This is the house that was built in the mid 1800's for farm workers and then after William Hartman (Great Grandfather) bought what is now Rivermist subdivision, he tore down all the houses except this one which he moved to the farm.  Ardin Hartman (Grandfather) used it for years as a tack house, and then later as storage, until about 10 year ago when it almost completely burnt down.  MaryAnn Hartman (Grandmother) had it remodeled and added on to it and since then Ben Hartman (Brother) has been living in it.  Ben moved to New Orleans to marry Lane so Elizabeth and I moved it.  It's a big house, 2 stories with a full basement, which is especially big to us since we have only ever lived in apartments before.  We are still unpacking and organizing and customizing it to make it ours which is going to take awhile, but we enjoy it.

In more important news, Izora "Ikey" Howell (Great Grandmother) passed away today at Dekalb Medical center.   They disovered she had abdominal cancer a few weeks ago which they operated on, but there was so much cancer they couldn't remove it and she had been in the ICU ever since.  While in the ICU she started developing infections, blood clot, pneumonia, a mild heart attack, etc...  She was on a ventilator but they were unable to wean her off of it.  Today the family decided it was time to let nature take it's course so they removed the ventilator.  Two hours later, with her family at the bed, she passed and went up to heaven.  She was an awesome lady, VERY tall, and was more energetic then most people half her age.  It is sad that she is gone, but at least everyone got to say goodbye and she isn't in pain anymore and she is in a better place with her husband.

With all of that sad news going on, Ben is getting married on Saturday.  The timing is horrible, but at least it wasn't a situation where we were all in New Orleans when it happened.  I hope that during the wedding we can all be happy and enjoy it because I really think Ikey would have wanted us too.

It was like kissing Dick Cheney

On my ride in this morning NPR was doing a comparison of Dick Cheney and Obama's speeches last night. After listening to Cheney's speech I remember asking myself if there were actually people who really believed in the fear hype that he was pitching.  Surely in this modern age a logical discussion of the issues would win out over viseral gut feelings of fear, right?

About that time I notice out of the corner of my eye that there is a car right beside me, trying to get my attention.  I look over and it's one of those landscaping van's and there is a young white male driving.  Once he sees that I see him, he gives me the bird and tells me "$*** YOU!". 

At this point I had a choice as to how to react, and I reacted the best possible way that I know how.......I smiled, waved, and blew him a kiss!

I love my bumper stickers and I can't wait until next week when I get some more.  I foresee lots of blowing kisses in my future and I'm happy about that!

Happy 6 year dating Anniversery!

6 years ago Elizabeth and I met for the first time in person.  We saw the very first X-Men movie together so Elizabeth thought it was only fitting that tonight we see the new X-Men movie.

We both wrote in our Journals about the first date:



I would also like to share that Elizabeth is currently in bed sleeping with the Pooh that I gave her 6 years ago


I met with Julie Schwartz at Emory Bariatric today and am pleased as punch.  She was pretty cool because not only is she a nutritionist, she also looks into why you eat the way you do, without getting too deep into the psyche.  We talked about what I ate, when I ate, how much I ate, and why I ate.  We also talked about the surgery and why I want it.  In the end she came up with some strategies that I think I can do for the long term. 

Some of their concepts really make a lot of sense, like that they don't believe will power works.  Instead, plan ahead instead of relying on will power.  So for example,  use a smaller plate.  That way you will think you are filling up the entire plate, which you, but it's smaller so you are eating less.  She had a lot of little tricks like that which were really helpful.

Now I just have to wait on the psych appointment and then to see if insurance approves my paperwork.

Interesting Medical Myths

    * Sugar causes hyperactivity in children
    * Suicides increase over the holidays
    * Poinsettia toxicity
    * Excess heat loss through the head
    * Eating at night makes your fatter
    * You can cure a hangover
    * People should drink at least eight glasses of water a day
    * We use only 10% of our brains
    * Hair and fingernails continue to grow after death
    * Shaving hair causes it to grow back faster, darker, or coarser
    * Reading in dim light ruins your eyesight
    * Eating turkey makes people especially drowsy
    * Mobile phones create considerable electromagnetic interference in hospitals.

Some of those I had to double check to make sure because I didn't believe it.  Like the sugar in kids, the heat loss without a hat, the shaving one, and the Turkey myths

Sources: http://www.bmj.com/cgi/content/full/337/dec17_2/a2769 and http://www.bmj.com/cgi/content/full/335/7633/1288

Christmas 2008 with pictures

I had a great Christmas this year, a very busy Christmas.

I spent the week, M-F, down in Florida.  I spent Tuesday taking Granny around to a bunch of little consignment\second hand places. It works out well since we both love second hand stores.  She got a lot of little things and I got a $20 wheel chair.  Do I need a wheel chair, probably not, but for $20 I couldn't say no, you never know when you or someone will need one.  Tuesday night I met up with Kevin and Kristen in Live Oak at Big Daddy's.  Its a new place that has the food of Bono's but looks like youre in a hunting lodge.  I wish I would have taken pictures, there were a ton of heads on the wall, even a bull head, plus there was a (stuffed) wild turkey purched on a tree in the middle of the restaurant....You dont see that every day!  We talked so long that eventually the waitress lady gave us suttle hints to leave and then we talked some more outside until we all started getting a little blue ;-D  I miss Kevin and Kristen, and Live Oak...its a good little town.

Wednesday I went over and saw the Ragans's, well some of them.  I wish the scheduling would have worked out where I would have been able to see everyone, but I did get to see a few.  I saw Ray, err.... Seaman Apprentince Ragan while I was there which was good.  He told us stories about what it was like at the Great Lakes base and showed us the yearbook they had throughout the year.  Wednesday night was the Oaks family mini-reunion a.k.a. Christmas Eve.  Christmas Eve is my favorite time of the year because I get to see all my relatives that I never get to see.  Even when I lived down there it was the same way, we only saw each other once a year, so it has always been a special time for us. 

Christmas Day Mamma and Granny made my favorite meal: Cubed Steak (in and out of gravy), instant mashed potatoes, green beans with bacon grease, and cocunut cake.  It's almost as unhealthy as it it yummy.  Say what you want about my family, but they sure know how to cook.

I came home Friday and Saturday we spent the day at the farm where I opened presents from the Hartman's and had dinner with Elizabeth parents, grandmother, and Great Grandmother.  Sunday we went over to the Starns' and had Christmas  and then Tuesday Elizabeth and I had our Christmas.

Overall it was a great Christmas, though I wish Lake City and Atlanta were closer so I would have been able to spend more time with everyone rather than one of the other.  Here's hoping 2009 is a better year than 2008.

For those of you not on Facebook, here are some pictures.  The quality is awful since they were with my camera phone, but I got a few good ones in here:  http://www.facebook.com/album.php?page=1&aid=2032156&l=deb3a&id=63702411