Sunday, August 30, 2015

Back in time

I am going to take a break from my summer musings (and it is possible that I am done with them) to recap a story that I bet the majority of ya all don't even know about me.  Why I am dredging this up I am not sure, other than the fact that I talked about it with a friend of mine in the last couple days and I kind of had forgotten about the whole horrible thing. But the results have been so positive that it seems worth reviewing.  For old time's sake, I suppose.  And it is a story I haven't thought about in so long.... so much complexity to this, but you know how that is.  I'm leaving a lot out.

So the conversation came about because this person had had a sore spot in their back, which really felt like the hip area, but when it was described,  I could pretty safely say that it was most likely a spinal issue.  I want to say for the record, that I am in no way a medical person and know NOTHING.  Do not quote me or make fun of me or hold me up for admiration other than how damn lucky I was to come out so well on the other side.  I was the right person at the right time to have this good of an outcome.  So there is the disclaimer - sit back and enjoy the story.  Or move along to another interwebs site.....  ;)

Anywho, now that the legalities have been covered, this brought up some memories that had been put aside for a long time.  Back in the middle of the 00 decade (is that a thing?  does that make sense?  Let's say around 2004) I had a moment of unwitting stupidity that eventually sent lil ole me into surgery.  I have had back issues, as most/many people do at some point in their life, off and on since college.  Some muscular and some discular - :) They had been fairly minor or short lived for most of the time, but sometime after the kids were grown up a bit - something new occurred.  I actually thought, like my friend, that I had a hip issue.  It was a deep dull pain right where the leg and hip join together in that ball socket.  It just felt like nothing I had had before.  Weird, right?  So the doctor sent me to PT even though they didn't think it was my hip at all, and told me it was most likely a back thing.  Oh CRAP.  I had done PT for my back before with much success.  The nice people before had given me a book with some good yoga type rescue poses for pain, and it worked slick.  Nothing like time and a little exercise.  And a back roll that was my friend and savior, who got accidentally sold with one of the Intrepids, but that is totally beside the point.  (and btw, if I lent my little blue back book to any of you many moons ago, I'd totally be down for getting it back again......  please!)

For some reason, though, this time, the previous exercises didn't help and I ended up with a different set of PT people.  Which was fine, and in fact the things they were having me do were spot on.  It was getting better, the pain was receding and getting back closer to the middle of my back, etc.  And since I was getting stronger, the gave me an exercise ball to do stuff on. ..........  so being of childlike nature, I did my sit-ups like I was supposed to, and then got creative.  Oh if you know me, you will not be surprised by how I would have been laying on my stomach and rolling around on it like a 5 year old.  While watching tv.  Because that is what I did.  Which didn't seem like a big deal, but apparently was.  I woke up in the wee hours of the new day feeling weird and uncomfortable.  Now I was used to the uncomfortable part, as this back thing was something that woke me up a lot.

It occurs to me that I blamed someone's SNORING and a bed that needed replacing on my back woes.  As in I ended up on the couch from the snoring (this was for the better part of a year) and when I was in bed, it was getting pretty soft and mushy.  However I believe at that time I had at least one kid in college and I think 2.  So a new bed had to wait a few years.  And the snoring was eventually solved by me refusing to buy ice cream and chips and bringing anyone food after dinner...... but I digress.

Back to the bathroom, which is where I was when I was trying to figure out what my problem was.  When I attempted to stand, my left foot basically was not having any of it.  Any pressure placed on said tootsie resulted in the most excruciating pain ever I have felt. The benchmark for pain that I measure all else against is my dear second sons delivery, which I will spare you the details of, and that pain smashed the original one out of the park.

I limped into the livingroom, where I ended up on the floor and then was unable to get up.  This is where I called for the MA, who kindly tried to help me back to bed.  But I couldn't get up, which is where I gave the opinion that I need an ambulance, but no, go back to bed....  um.....   Anyway, whilst this discussion was playing out, I felt a pop in my back and the pain was gone, but I could feel a pulsing buzz of electricity through my back and leg.  Did I mention that the pain went well down into my leg before?  It did.  Lucky me.  By the time this was all said and done, my big toe was totally numb.  So yeah, I was back in bed and I actually went to work the next day, I think, but I was not in good shape.  The pain returned in much worse way, not acute but constant and burning and horrible.  Turns out of course that my disc had burst and not only was the pressure of the gel that came out of the inside the disc pushing on my nerve, but it is also caustic.  And so I had chemical burns in there.  Isn't that special?? So for those in the know or who want to know, I believe it was L5/S1 that burst and L4/5 had some displacement/bulging issues. It was ugly whatever the names.  

So, I am not second guessing any doctor, but let's say I found out later that prescribing tylenol with codeine was a bit of an under-reaction to what I felt and experienced.  I tried massage, the chiropractor, and a few other things during that acute pain, and nothing helped.  It was nasty.  I got advice from friends at school and I contacted the Pain Clinic over in Minocqua and THEY have their shit together.  I had a wonderful team of an osteopath, some awesome nurses and the anesthesiologist who hooked me up with some good injections!  Which worked with varied success.  I worked with them from about October through June, when I was chatting with a friend who works in the medical field and she talked about surgery to me. I never ever entertained that notion!  And coincidentally another friend of mine actually HAD back surgery with the same Doc.  So I decided that I needed to go that route.  The surgery route was the next thing that they would be recommended anyway, as the third injection was only a partial success, and it just wasn't going away.

A fun aside- at the pain clinic you had to indicate where your pain was on a line drawing of a person....  and because I am after all like that, I dressed the rest of the body.  First with pens, and eventually more and more elaborate.  And I kept getting these papers every time I went, so I eventually put these people in Halloween costumes, Madrigal costumes, and other clothing I don't even recall right now.  :)  I of course photocopied the papers and spent a goodly amount of time with colored pencils having fun with those drawings.  They were hung up in their office for a long time!  It was a hoot.  I was an entertaining patient I think.

Ok, cut to June, calling Marshfield to get appt., had to endure another MRI (guess what!!!  Debi found out the first time through that she is indeed claustrophobic!  Woo hoo, panic attack time) this time properly medicated, and a few trips down to Marshfield, finding out my doctor was IMPOSSIBLY good looking (that is a whole different story that is pretty funny, best told in person), but he was/is?? the Head of Orthopedics there and very skilled.  I was an easy case I think. Anyway, my MRI matched my symptoms and I had surgery in mid-July.  Something about a lamenectomy and a laminotomy....  And 6 weeks later thought I was feeling so good, which I realized 6 months later how I had not been feeling all that great, but ignorance is bliss.

So did I mention that once I got to the Pain Clinic I was taking goooooood pain pills for like 9 months??  yeah.  It took some work on my part to kick the pill habit after the surgery.  Those pills, wow.  They speak to you.  They want you to figure out a way to get more.  A bad scene indeed.  But I kept a few in my medicine cabinet for in case I needed them, which I did once.  About 2 months after the surgery when I found out standing on cement stairs for 15 minutes yakking with someone was just not a good plan.  At all.  Lots of micro-corrections going on in that little scenario, and that just hurt.

I had so many restrictions during my recovery.  There was a crazy list of things I could and couldn't do and for how long.  I remember not being able to lift a gallon of milk for 3 weeks and not VACUUM for 3 months.  Which is when I started having my dear dear friend clean my house and I haven't looked back!  Even after I could vacuum again.  Oh I also had a back brace which SUCKED more than you can believe, and I used a contoured back pillow when sitting for years!  Apparently nerve heals at a rate of about 1 inch per month.  My big toe was totally  numb, and it indeed did take 2 years for that 24/26 inch length of nerve to heal completely.  But it did!  I have slight residual weakness in my leg/foot, but it is very slight.  whew!

So what is the take away here??  I followed directions and did what I was supposed to.  I exercised and stretched and walked and did what they told me.  I followed those directions to a T, and eventually lost the extra weight they had wanted me to lose as well, but that took a few years.  I have very very few back issues.  Once in a while I feel a twinge and if I do, I know what to do.  And when those things happen, I examine what I have been doing and what I have been omitting from my routine and I put it back in!  Back stuff sucks!

But I am a success story, and this gives me very very much joy!!  But I have to tell you, I am kinda afraid of exercise balls!  :)  Can you blame me??

I would like to point out, that until the previously mentioned elbow thing happened, I had had a good track record for health..... just sayin' :)

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