A Lung Story – Surviving Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome

Acute Respiratory Distress SyndromeThere’s a getting-to-know-you game called “Two Truths and a Lie” that I have played many times. You tell three outrageous things about yourself, but only two are true. With all the crazy things that have happened in my life, it’s not hard to baffle the people I’m playing with. I always say “I spent 3 weeks on life support,” and people are surprised when I say that I’m not kidding.

It’s been 11 years since I survived a condition so severe that doctors had given up hope for me, and encouraged my family to “make arrangements”. And in light of my recent health struggles, I felt that it was important to document my memories of how I cheated death. And since I’m a blogger, I share my story with you here.

How did I get such a bizarre and life-threatening illness? It was a combination of things, but I was recovering from post-partum trauma, blood loss and sepsis. And because it happened in the days following Rosie’s birth, I might as well tell her birth story too. In fact, there’s really no way to separate the two events.

I found out that I was pregnant in January of 2000. I had only been married 9 months, and felt incredibly unprepared to be a mother. I dealt with chronic nausea and vomiting through 8 months of my pregnancy, and lost 30 pounds in my first trimester. Many people commented that it was strange for me to have such a difficult time keeping food down, but I eventually got back to my pre-pregnancy weight when I was ready to deliver. I could barely stand my excitement to see my little Rosie.

Ready to Deliver

I was induced for labor at 41 weeks. The delivery was pretty routine and Rosie was born healthy and strong. Unfortunately, the placenta would not deliver. It was attached tightly to my uterine wall, and it finally came out after 45 minutes of my OB/GYN tugging at the placenta while I was hemorrhaging. A blood transfusion was considered, but they didn’t have enough AB+ on hand in the blood bank.

So first factor – trauma of delivery and significant blood loss.

I was exhausted leaving the hospital when I left two days later. But that didn’t stop me from shopping at Babies R Us, going to my cousin’s baby shower, and driving around to show of my gorgeous new infant. I considered going to church with a 3-day-old in tow, but stayed home to rest at the encouragement of my husband. I nursed and napped, and woke up feeling not quite right. Within two hours I had spiked a high fever and was trembling with chills. I knew this wasn’t a good sign, so I headed to the Emergency Room.

I remember being dropped off in front of the Cottonwood Hospital ER, only about 50 feet from the entrance. But I was so weak that a nurse caught me falling halfway in, grabbed a wheelchair, and wheeled me straight into a treatment room. After a battery of tests, I was diagnosed with a severe kidney infection. I had been hospitalized 17 months prior with a kidney infection, and spent 5 days inpatient at the same hospital. The blood and urine was cultured out, and the raging infection was caused by E. coli.

I was admitted, and pumped full of IV antibiotics. I remember on my prior hospitalization, they gave me Rocephin, and it didn’t work well, so they gave me another antibiotic. When they put me on Rocephin again, I mentioned that it hadn’t worked in the past. But they assured me that this drug was the standard of care, and 24 hours of treatment would be enough to go home on oral antibiotics. I felt yucky, but was happy I could still have my baby stay with me in the hospital. My grandparents were leaving on a mission that week, and the extended family was having a farewell dinner Monday evening. I really wanted to go, and the doctor was more than happy to release me in time to go to the party.

Second factor – sepsis.

I enjoyed the time with my family, showed off Rosie and tried to act as positive and energetic as I could. But I was exhausted. I didn’t feel like staying very long, and I asked my mom to come home with me to help out with Rosie overnight. I was really weak, and felt more short of breath the later it got in the evening. I was diagnosed with asthma at age 12, so I had a few inhalers laying around. I took a few puffs, tried to relax, but I just didn’t feel right. I was stubborn enough to hold off on going to the ER again until 4 am, when my fingers, toes and lips were turning blue.

The next few hours are kind of blurry. In triage, they checked my oxygen saturation level, which was at a critically low 70%. I remember being swarmed by doctors, medical students, and nurses. I started with oxygen on a nasal cannula, but they soon put a face mask on me. I started feeling a little bit better after the oxygen and some IV fluids, and the hysteria around my hospital bed calmed a bit. Steve (my ex-husband) and my mom were talking about how hungry they were, and how it was probably going to be a couple of hours before anything important happened. My mom left to get breakfast at McDonald’s across the hospital parking lot.

In the minutes while my mom was gone, I went into shock and my vitals took a nosedive. Medical jargon was being yelled out and it was evident they were planning to transfer me to the ICU. They told me that the oxygen mask wasn’t giving me enough help, and they were going to put a tube down my throat to help me breathe. My mom got back from McDonald’s, and couldn’t believe that my status had worsened so quickly. The last thing I remembered was Steve complaining to my mom that she forgot to get salsa for his breakfast burrito (terribly immature, I know, but he was in shock too).

I was transfered to the Intensive Care Unit, intubated, and sedated into a medically-induced coma. From this point, the recollections in the ICU are from my family. After chest x-rays, lab work, and a bronchoscopy with lung biopsy, I was diagnosed with diffuse alveolar damage leading to  Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome, also known as Adult Respiratory Distress Syndrome, or ARDS.

According to National Institutes of Health,

Acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) is a life-threatening lung condition that prevents enough oxygen from getting into the blood. ARDS can be caused by any major swelling (inflammation) or injury to the lung. Some common causes include:

  • Breathing vomit into the lungs (aspiration)
  • Inhaling chemicals
  • Pneumonia
  • Trauma
  • Septic Shock

ARDS leads to a buildup of fluid in the air sacs. This fluid prevents enough oxygen from passing into the bloodstream. The fluid buildup also makes the lungs heavy and stiff, and decreases the lungs’ ability to expand. The level of oxygen in the blood can stay dangerously low, even if the person receives oxygen from a breathing machine (mechanical ventilator) through a breathing tube (endotracheal tube). ARDS often occurs along with the failure of other organ systems, such as the liver or the kidneys.

Typically people with ARDS need to be in an intensive care unit (ICU). The goal of treatment is to provide breathing support and treat the underlying cause of ARDS. This may involve medications to treat infections, reduce inflammation, and remove fluid from the lungs. A breathing machine is used to deliver high doses of oxygen and a continuous level of pressure called PEEP (positive end-expiratory pressure) to the damaged lungs. Patients often need to be deeply sedated with medications when using this equipment.

About a third of people with ARDS die from the disease. Survivors usually get back normal lung function, but many people have permanent, usually mild, lung damage. Many people who survive ARDS have memory loss or other problems with thinking after they recover. This is due to brain damage that occurred when the lungs weren’t working properly and the brain wasn’t getting enough oxygen.

(More about ARDS and Sepsis)

At this point, the doctors prepared my body for sedation, mechanical ventilation, broad spectrum antibiotics, catheters, feeding tubes, and everything else needed for a living on life support for long enough for my body to heal.  I was very fortunate to not receive a tracheotomy. The doctors told my family to plan on an extended stay in the ICU. But after a few days, I wasn’t doing much better. Dips in my vital signs were so significant that social workers began to talk to my family members about “making arrangements” in the event that my situation worsened to death. But at this point, my family was offered the chance to have me enrolled in a ventilator research protocol, sponsored by the NIH, called ALVEOLI. This is when the tides began to turn in my recovery.

Most people who experience ARDS are over 60 years old and usually fall into multiple-organ failure. But because I went into the illness otherwise healthy, I returned from a critical state more quickly than most patients with ARDS. There was only one day that I was on the vent where I wasn’t sedated. It was the most hellish day that I’d ever experienced. Because the tube was still down my throat, my ability to communicate verbally was taken away. My muscles had atrophied so much over the weeks of  sedation that I was too weak to hold a pencil to write anything. I remember lots of painful suction from the tube. But the worst part of it all was the ICU psychosis.

ARDS patients are at great risk for multiple organ dysfunction, and the brain is usually the most affected organ. According to the ARDS Foundation,

“Health care professionals are becoming increasingly concerned not only with survival, but also with the quality of patients’ lives, which is determined in large measure by their neuropsychological outcomes. At 6 months following ALI/ARDS, the proportion of patients complaining of psychiatric, cognitive, and neurologic symptoms were 57%, 32%, and 44%, respectively. In our own studies and those of others recently, it has been determined that up to 80% of patients experience acute delirium in the ICU during their bout of ALI/ARDS. We have shown that delirium in the ICU is associated with a 9 times higher likelihood of cognitive impairment at the time of hospital discharge. Lastly, 33% to 80% of survivors of ALI/ARDS have long-term cognitive impairment when studied with comprehensive tests. This sort of ongoing brain dysfunction can be akin to an acquired dementia of sorts.”

With how much I DON’T remember about the hospital stay, it’s interesting how vivid my recollections of my ICU psychosis are, even a decade later. Despite what the doctors told me, I was certain that I got sick because I actually gave birth to twins. Rosie was born, and the placenta wouldn’t deliver because it was supporting another baby. I thought my body short-circuited because it had wait 5 days to give birth to the other baby. I thought that the crown molding at the top of the ICU room was a specialty baguette that helped premature infants “ripen,” like a cutting-edge incubator. I also thought I was in a high-rise hospital building in “urban Salt Lake,” and I wanted to go home by subway because there was excess construction around the hospital.

When it was time for me to have another CT scan to check on my chest and abdomen, I looked up at the styrofoam ceiling in radiology and saw messages poked with a pen into the ceiling saying that “having a CT scan will be the most traumatic experience ever” and I should “request a less invasive radiological procedure.” I thought that the tachycardia I was experiencing was due to a high-sodium feeding tube diet, and once I could speak, I would like to be assured that I would not be given a diet with excess sodium (and I persisted until my ICU nurse wrote a message on the white board in my room to remind the other nurses.

Through the time that I was in the hospital, I worked with physical therapists 2-4 times a day. I was told that as soon as I could walk around the entire unit unassisted, I could go home. At first, all they could do was exercise my fingers for me until I was strong enough to grasp a pencil. Then they had me work with Therabands  to strengthen my other arm muscles. We worked on techniques to move me around in the hospital bed. Leg PT went from wiggling toes, to flexing my foot and bending my knees. The first time I stood on my two feet after 3 weeks in a hospital bed, I lasted about half a second before I flopped back on the bed. But then I got strong enough to march in place. Then I worked on getting out of the bed to use the commode (as I was completely mortified by using the bedpan).

Life got a lot better once I had been extubated. I was able to recover from the inflammation in my throat caused by the ventilator. I was able to find ways to communicate as my body strengthened and my voice came back. The effects of the amnesiac medication, Ativan, wore off and I started to feel like I was more in my right mind. I was motivated to see my baby, and strictly complied with all physical therapies in order to gain strength to leave the ICU. I was initially transferred from the ICU to a shared room. I remember the first time I saw Rosie after all these painful weeks. I had nurses prop pillows all around me, and my beautiful daughter was laid in my weak, atrophied arms. My voice was still scratchy and weak from the ventilator tube, but I still attempted to sing lullabies to her. All of the baby stuff for Rosie took up most of the space in the shared room, and I was told that they were working on a private room.

As soon as it was available, I was transferred to  the “VIP suite” on the surgical floor (where any celebrity, or general authority’s wives, recover after surgery.) It had a gorgeous mountain view and was spacious (meaning monumentally far from the bathroom once I was strong enough to not use the bedside commode). I spent the following days watching the Sydney 2000 Summer Olympics from my hotel room, along with a bunch of TV shows that my dad recorded for me to stay sane. I spent a lot of time resting between aggressive physical therapy visits. I had Rosie brought into me at the hospital as often as my strength allowed, and did the pillow-prop technique until my arm muscles were strong enough to hold her unassisted. I remember yelping with joy the first time I walked across my hospital room, supported by my gigantic IV pole, to use the restroom by myself. I could have my urinary catheter removed, and was excited to not be stuck with the bedpan. At that point I could have real baths instead of sponge baths in bed.. Next I started walking around the floor of the unit, then faced my nemesis – THE STAIRS. It was truly one step at a time.

After a week on the Med-Surg floor, doctors were finally discussing my release from the hospital. There was some debate as to whether I should be released to a rehab hospital, or if I could stay at my parents’ house. Ultimately, it was decided that I’d transition back into real life easier if I was at home. For the ICU stay, I was given an NG tube for nutrition, and my meals came from an IV pole through my nose. A few days after I was moved out of the ICU, the “nose food” was discontinued and I started eating very small meals. It was very difficult to eat because my throat and vocal cords were extremely swollen from the ventilator. I had to chew each bite very thoroughly, and would choke often. It was hard to get all my nutrients, so I had to drink Boost or Ensure supplement drinks to get by.

Once I was released, I was pushed out to my car in a wheelchair. It was the first time I’d been in the sun in weeks, and it was a beautiful October day. We went straight to my parents’ house and I flopped into a cushy pink La-Z-Boy (which would be my favorite spot for the 6 months I lived there.)

Within a few hours, I started having a strange pain in my left arm, particularly intense around the area my PICC line was removed earlier in the day. I thought it was normal, since I’d had the line in for several weeks. But the next day it started to swell and turn red, and felt very hot to the touch. I had my home health nurse look at it, and she got in touch with my doctor. I was instructed to go to radiology at Alta View hospital immediately for an upper extremity ultrasound. Having just been pregnant, I had several completely normal ultrasounds where the radiology tech casually talked through the procedure. But this tech had this worried intensity in his eyes. He excused himself from the room and called my doctor, who then wanted to talk to me. The ultrasound uncovered a massive blood clot from my middle fingertip to my armpit. The clot most likely began forming 2 days prior, while still in the hospital, when shots of heparin were discontinued.

In most cases, a clot of this size would mean immediate hospitalization. But since I’d been released the day before from a month-long hospital stay, my doctor had it set up for me to have anticoagulation therapy from home. I would get a week of twice-daily shots in the gut of Lovenox, a strong blood thinner. Unfortunately, my “postpartum flow” was not taken into consideration. Because I’d been bedridden for so long, my body hadn’t had the chance to shed all of the fluids and tissues from my uterus after delivery.  I was already weak, anemic, and had ridiculously low levels of hemoglobin and hematocrit. I felt like I was hemorrhaging, and it warranted another trip to the ER. After an ultrasound on my belly, and another ultrasound on my arm, I was told to stop the shots of Lovenox because my blood had been thinned too much.

I was instead put on Coumadin, an oral blood-thinner than requires frequent blood testing. Many people joke that it has the same affect on your body as rat poison. It affects so many elements of your life – you have to avoid certain foods, you are more prone to bruising, your blood can get too thin or not thin enough, and you can’t be on hormonal birth control. It can cause fatigue, fainting, flu-like symptoms, gastrointestinal issues, and many other unpleasant side effects. So it’s hard to separate the recovery from ARDS to the setbacks caused from anti-coagulation therapy. And because I’d been on such strong antibiotics for so many weeks, I had candida yeast growth issues ALL OVER my body, not just the usual places. Sparing all the disgusting details, I will say that it’s very possible and uncomfortable to have yeast issues under your fingernails, and between your fingers and toes.

But when I got discouraged with my recovery, I had to put it into perspective. I was alive. I survived despite sketchy odds. I had an amazing support network. And slowly, my health and my strength improved. By Christmas time, I was strong enough to go out in public, and one of my biggest victories was holding Rosie as I walked up a flight of stairs so we could get a picture with Santa for her first Christmas.

So that is my ARDS story. That is the background on why I’m so prone to respiratory problems and other health struggles. This is a reason I have postponed having additional children. That is why it is difficult for me to exercise and lose weight. That is why I still struggle with violent flashbacks of my ICU psychosis. I beat the odds. I am a survivor.

TMI Friday: Being on Steroids for Lousy Lungs can Give you a Better Rack

sexy hospital gownIn the past month, I’ve filled over 20 prescriptions. In addition to playing “profession patient”, I’ve become the Foursquare mayor of several different pharmacies and medical clinics. I feel like my local Walgreens is the pharmacy equivalent of Cheers – “where everybody knows your name” (In fact, thinking about it makes me want to drown my sorrows in a Flaming Moe).

It started with seeing the hormone doctor. He put me on progesterone, which was supposed to temper my mood swings, make me sleep through the night and help me lose weight. The hormone pills didn’t help… Despite having the obvious signs of progesterone deficiency, the lab results showed that my normal hormones with vitamin/mineral deficiencies. My Vitamin D was low enough that they gave me an osteoporosis-fighting prescription drug.

About a week later, I started retaining water like a bloated water balloon. My blood pressure reading was sky-high, despite no prior signs of hypertension. So I went to my primary care doctor who gave me Lasix, a diuretic to help my body drain off the water weight and lower my blood pressure. It literally gets you running to the restroom every 30 minutes. Lasix makes your body deficient in potassium, so I’m taking a potassium supplement too. I got some sexy compression stockings to help my circulation and force out excess fluid in my legs. And you know how I had to get my wedding ring cut off a few weeks ago? My replacement cubic zirconia ring, which is 2 sizes larger, is already too small because of the swelling in my hands.

Then the poor air quality caught up with me. I started coughing and wheezing when I was outside, or whenever I exerted myself for anything beyond climbing a flight of stairs. I was choking and coughing in my sleep, which is not a good sign with sleep apnea. I started having constant chest pain. When I presented for Ignite Salt Lake, I thought the tightness in my chest was from nerves…but it was pleurisy. I was in urgent care with an asthma attack 2 weeks ago, where they sent me home with steroids and a big box of nebulizer vials. Since then, I’ve been back to urgent care, spent a long day in the ER, and have seen my new pulmonologist. He’s treating my dyspnea and sleep apnea problems more aggressively, and he’s strongly suggesting surgery. After lab work, chest x-rays, pulmonary function tests, arterial blood gasses, and lots of waiting in freezing cold rooms in thin hospital gowns…I’m worn out. The meds have made me gain weight at a rate I can’t seem to control (although I know most is due to fluid retention rather than bad eating habits).

So what’s the perk with all these steroids and weight gain? My boobs. I wasn’t small to begin with, but I’ve gone up almost two full cup sizes so far in 2011. A new bra I purchased a month ago leaves me spilling out. My newest blouse needs to be safety-pinned between buttons. People are no longer making eye contact with me in public, but they’re definitely looking. I don’t know how much of this excess size will stick around when my body calms down, but it was perfect timing for filling out my Valentines Day linger aie. If you’re considering a breast augmentation, maybe you should try going on steroids first.

Happy TMI Friday everyone!

I Grit My Teeth and Fake a Smile


I grit my teeth and fake a smile
And no one knows it all the while

My life is spent in waiting rooms
And stressing over copays due
My back is screaming, feet are numb
But to share my pain makes me feel dumb

I pawn my treasures and count pennies
To pay doctors bills and pharmacies
My husband’s based in Tennessee
So rarely can he care for me

Spanish Fork life gives me few perks
When Salt Lake City has all the work
Full-time employment may be a dream
When my pain daily makes me scream

I’m truly blessed to be Rosie’s mom
But she has nightmares that I’m GONE

My neighbors want to help my life
With MLM schemes for a stay-at-home wife
Unless it’s free, I can’t drink superjuice
So I’ll cry in bed, reading blogs like Dooce

Now that I’ve moaned and cried a bit
I’ll wipe my eyes, and publish it

Who on Earth is Tarlov, and How Did I Get His Cysts?

Yesterday I went back to the imaging center for my second MRI of my lumbar spine. This time it was done with contrast dye, which I had a mild adverse reaction to (burning sensation, nausea, etc). Once my body calmed down after the dye was injected, the MRI was pretty simple.

This afternoon the results made it in to my primary care doctor, and his nurse called me with the results. She said that there is no visible spinal disc compression, but I do have Tarlov Cysts in the sacral region of my spine. She said that I should come in next week to discuss my treatment plan with Dr. J. Because I am impatient and curious, I did a little Google sleuthing to find out more info on Tarlov and his cysts.

Tarlov Cyst (Perineural Cyst; Sacral Nerve Root Cyst)

Definition

Tarlov cysts are abnormal sacs of spinal fluid that usually form at the lower end of the spine (sacrum), or tailbone area. In most cases, they do not cause symptoms. But, if a nerve area is affected, you may experience pain.

Causes

The cause of a Tarlov cyst may be related to:

  • Trauma to the spinal cord
  • Increase in the cerebrospinal fluid pressure
  • Blockage of cerebrospinal fluid

Often times, the cause is unknown.

Once you have a Tarlov cyst, the following may cause it to become painful:

  • Traumatic injury such as a fall, automobile accident
  • Heavy lifting
  • Childbirth
  • Epidural anesthesia

Symptoms

Most Tarlov cysts do not cause symptoms. If you have any of these symptoms, do not assume it is due to Tarlov cysts. These symptoms may be caused by other conditions. Tell your doctor if you have any of these:

  • Nerve pain
  • Pain in the lower back, buttocks, legs and feet, vagina, rectum, or abdomen
  • Pain when coughing or sneezing
  • Weakness, cramping, or numbness in the buttocks, legs, and feet
  • Swelling, soreness, or tenderness around the lower end of the spine (sacral area)
  • Abnormal sensations in the legs and feet
  • Sciatica symptoms, such as pain when sitting or standing
  • Headaches
  • The feeling of “sitting on a hard surface”
  • Pulling and burning feeling in the tailbone

Treatment

Most of the time, Tarlov cysts do not require treatment. Treatment options include:

  • Corticosteroid injections or other medication injections—to relieve pain
  • Prescription medications—such as pain medications, antiseizure medications or antidepressants (both of these may be used to treat pain)
  • Lidoderm patches—applied to the sacral area to provide temporary relief of pain and discomfort
  • Aspiration of the cyst—a needle is used to drain the cyst to relieve symptoms
  • Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS)—electrical impulses are delivered through the skin to help control pain

In rare cases, surgery may be done if symptoms are severe and the cyst has caused changes in the bones of the sacrum. Surgery involves removal of a thin layer of bone and the cyst.

I’m not sure what all of this means for me at this point. I’m not informed of the details, and will iron out a treatment plan with my doctor next week. I’m going to do my best to keep a good balance between rest and activity, and hopefully this condition will dissipate on its own. I REALLY hope it’s temporary. My mother has been dealing with chronic pain issues for well over a decade, and I don’t want to have a life where pain chains me to the bedroom. On one of the info sites, in interesting letter was written by a nurse who deals with Tarlov Cysts. I don’t see myself sending it out to friends and family, but it scares me a little that I might have to live life like this.

Dental Drama and PT Pain

The past few days have been somewhat miserable for me. Anyone who’s read my blog for a while knows that I’ve had a ridiculous about of dental work and other tooth woes: crowns, root canals, periodontal work, the Cerec fiasco, etc. Last week I went to a new dentist, who informed me that two recent crowns would have to be replaced due to shoddy work, and one would need an implant. He also suggested to crown a molar that had an old gigantic amalam filling. I was bummed that I needed to have so much recent (expensive) work replaced, but I’m kinda used to it.

On Sunday night, after returning from my quick trip to Florida, my upper left gums and molars started throbbing. I was in an immense amount of pain, and I had no idea why (because all of the work scheduled was on my right side). Through the night, I used Orajel, Lortab, and many ice packs to try to take down the pain level. Between 2 am and 8 am, I only dozed off a few times because I hurt so bad. Despite my perpetually sore back, that pain had NOTHING on my jaw.

I called the dentist’s office as soon as they opened, and they got me in a few hours later. After a round of x-rays, he informed me that I had 4 abscessed teeth, with infection permeating both my upper and lower jaw. The two worst teeth were ones that had ceramic crowns, so he drilled them and did two pulpotomies. He handed me a prescription for Amoxicillin and told me to come back on Thursday to complete the root canals. He hoped that the other infected teeth would improve with the antibiotics, and would not require invasive treatment.

Over the past three days, I’ve been miserable. Not only was I dealing with the dental drama, I had a little mishap at physical therapy on my back. I finished an hour of electrostim and traction, and as I sat up, my hip popped about 3 cm out of place. My physical therapist did some manipulation and nearly and hour of electrical ultrasound to get me to the point I could walk. I still feel like a disconnected insect. Or a bowlegged cowboy.

Luckily, Taylor was home for a few days to take care of me. He replenished my ice packs, made sure I took my meds on time, prepared soft foods and offered general support and entertainment till he had to fly back to Memphis yesterday. Just before heading up to SLC to drop him off at the airport, I started getting a fever and body aches. By the time I dropped him off, my fever was up to 103*. My face was so hot, I felt like I could fry an egg on it. Something tells me the Amoxicillin wasn’t strong enough.

I have my appointment for the root canals this morning, right after the office opens. I have a sneaking suspicion that they will postpone the root canals, and send me straight to Urgent Care.

Another Moving Fiasco: Part 3

Phew! I finally made some headway in MovingGate 2009-2010. It took bombarding Moving 1 with voice mails and emails for a few days before Rob would actually accept a call from me (I was really getting sick of the receptionist whispering to him that I was on the phone, thinking she’d placed the call on hold). After reviewing the emailed quotes I’d sent from other moving companies, (and sternly warning him with some legal mumbo-jumbo suggested from my buddy in law school,) Rob finally agreed to removed the $2/CF surcharge on the “extra” 190 CF. That brought down the price $360. Not terribly significant, but he said it was the best he could offer outside of court. Since I didn’t want to wait for my belongings through a lengthy multi-state court process, I accepted the arrangement. It’s still $1075 more than the binding estimate, but I don’t think I could have been any more successful without paying for a lawyer. I never heard back from Gephardt, but if he does contact me, I’ll see if he has any additional tips for me. I’ve reported the company to the BBB and American Moving and Storage Association. In the words of Mr. T: “I pity the fool who uses Moving 1!”One other bright spot: We negotiated with Taylor’s company to give us additional reimbursement towards our moving costs. They’ll cover the $450 in packing supplies. With the “discount” from Moving 1 and extra money from the airline, we are scheduled to have our stuff arrive in Spanish Fork sometime between January 16-22. We’ll have to do some mad pawning, Ebaying, and KSL.com selling to get enough cash this week (since the reimbursement will take a while). I’ve got a ton of Rosie’s baby clothes (newborn to 4T) if you’re interested….


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Another Moving Fiasco : Part 2


Ah, the continuing moving saga of the Bullock family. Part one of the Atlanta moving fiasco is here.

I was hoping that after two weeks I’d have more good news to report on the move, but we’re still in a stalemate. We’d hoped to have the issue resolved quickly, and to have our belongings delivered by Christmas or New Years’. I’ve talked to several receptionists, two reservation specialists and two managers, and have gotten the most information out of the manager Rob (but on only one occasion). When I call to ask for Rob, I am typically put on hold for 10-25 minutes before I’m told “He’s already left for the day,” or “He has taken the day off,” or “He’s meeting with a vendor in the warehouse and can’t talk for at least an hour.” All excuses are given with a promise to have him call me back immediately, but as of today, I have not had ONE email or phone call returned. I have messaged Erica the reservation specialist a few times, and she is no longer returning my emails or voice mails.

Currently, our items are sitting in their regional warehouse in Arkansas. We have gotten the moving company to agree to not charge us storage fees until we are able to pay enough to start transit (which we will do as soon as they give us an agreeable total price). But at the rate Moving 1 has been going, who knows if it will happen anytime soon?!?

I don’t know what else I can do. I just emailed Get Gephardt for help.

Not a pain in the neck, more like a pain in the butt!


Two weeks ago, I was shoveling snow in my driveway. We’d gotten about 11 inches of snow, and had let it sit for a day. Once I picked up a scarf, hat, gloves and some snow boots from DI, I went to work clearing a path for my car in the driveway. After about 45 minutes, I mightily thrust my shovel into a section of snow that was actually rock hard ice. The shovel didn’t move from the point of impact, but I wrenched my back in the process. Ironically, this happened while my husband was in the warm house playing XBOX.

I’ve been pretty miserable since, utilizing ice packs, heat, and lots of Motrin. A few days ago I decided to try shoveling again, and my back flared up even more. I happened to find out that my neighbor is a physical therapist, and he evaluated me. It appears I have a “bulging L4-L5” with “S1 dysfunction.” He poked and prodded me while ordering me into uncomfortable positions, gave me a lengthy list of exercises, and forbade me from shoveling snow, loading a dishwasher, vacuuming, or any other rotating repetitive movement for 4-6 weeks.

So….how should I bribe a Deacon to shovel my driveway for the next 6 weeks?

Yet Another Moving Fiasco

Moving 1 steals your belongingsThe storage unit in Decatur, GA that has held our earthly possessions since June

When Rosie and I headed out to Utah in June, all we brought with us was what fit into my Camry. We packed pretty creatively, so we haven’t been totally barren. Unfortunately, most of the clothes we brought with us were capris, tees, sandals, and light jackets. Now that it’s Winter, fleece jackets just don’t cut it! We’ve found some amazing finds online and at thrift stores. We’ve received calls from neighbors and family members when they were getting rid of something we might be able to use. But after 6 months of shelling out $100 bucks per month to Public Storage, we knew we had to get our stuff out to Utah sooner rather than later.

Over the past few months, I’ve gotten about 20 different price quotes from traditional moving companies, freight companies, cube storage/shipping, U-Pack, U-Haul, etc. We had chosen a broker called Moving 1 (who we did ultimately use this week) and we told them we weren’t sure when it would happen because we didn’t have the funds to pay yet. Once we got a quote lower than Moving 1’s quote, we asked them to match it. They DID match the total, but not the rate per cubic foot. We had reserved 800 cu ft (10x10x8 storage unit) but they way they scammed us was to only give us 560 cu ft for the $1820. When we used 720 cu ft, we got slammed with a higher price for that “extra” 190 cu ft.

In all, they charged us $3.75 per CF, and $5.75 for the extra CF (when all other CF quotes were between $2.15-$3.00 per CF.) Also, they charged us $530 for packing materials which consisted of 12 boxes and packaging tape, and a “dish packing fee” to put our bagged pots and pans into a box. When the truck was all packed, they movers said that the price was now $3200, not the “binding estimate” of $1800. We then found out was binding for weight…no matter how much it weighed, it would cost the same…but we’d have to pay extra for added volume. While at the storage unit as the movers packed, we tossed out dressers, mattresses, garbage bags full of linens and clothes, etc to make take down the amount of space used. We were supposed to pay half in cash at pick up, and half on delivery. We only had $1100 available to pay, so we have to wire them another $700 before they will ship it out to Utah. Our treasures will sit in a warehouse in Arkansas until we have paid half of the balance. Then we have to figure out the other half upon delivery. Hopefully we’ll get some cash for Christmas.

I have already submitted several comparable quotes I had obtained from various other companies to the manager at Moving 1 (and the “going rate” per CF obviously is nowhere near as expensive as Moving 1). I’ve also spoken with the manager of the dispatching trucking company to request an itemized bill for packaging materials, and will get rates from other movers to see how much our crew overcharged us. If the trucking company doesn’t help resolve this fiasco, we can go to small claims court over it. If we win, we’ll only have to pay about $200 out of what we recover. I am willing to fight, because I have no other choice.

With all of our interstate moves over the last 5 years, we’ve had varying luck with companies. We had something similar happen to us when we moved from California to Michigan, and luckily my in-laws bailed us out. Our Utah to California move was spot on with ABF U-Pack, and I wish we’d gone with them again. Our Michigan to Georgia move was fairly close to the estimate, but the movers took so long to move it out that we talked them into hiring a crew to unpack the truck for us for free. I’ll post an update on what happens with the GA to UT move as soon as we have any answers.

Merry Christmas, right?

Just my luck…


Today I’ve got a job interview. I got the call at 5:30 pm yesterday for an interview just after lunchtime. It the first time I’ve planned to make my hair look really nice and wear full makeup in a few months. As I was getting all of my makeup out on the counter, I froze when I saw my bottle of foundation. It was practically empty in a rock-hard clump. Last time I used it, I’m certain that there was at least 1/3 left. I guess it’s been a while since I’ve worn more than mascara and lip gloss.

I went shopping for an outfit to wear for the interview last night. Most of my work clothes are still in storage in Atlanta. After trying on stuff at seven stores, I only came home with a pair of black slacks. Everything else I tried on fit wrong, was too expensive, or made me look like I was 50. The blouse I’m going to wear is a bit on the casual side, but the color shows off my eyes really well. (Random fact: for every job I’ve been offered, someone in the interview complimented my eyes)

I don’t have a printer at home, so I need to figure out a place to print copies of my resume in the next hour.

I’ve never felt so unprepared for an interview…