Adventures in Pain and Suffering
Well, THIS has been interesting. I have been dealing for a few months with issues with my right leg, knee, and lower back. Various MRI and other procedures revealed significant arthritis in the knee as well as two damaged discs in my lower back. Two months of one or two a week therapy sessions at MTI in Totem Lake revealed that these problems have been there for years, and I had been compensating for them in various subconscious ways, resulting in poor posture and overall exacerbation of the issues.
As an aside, I’ve been incredibly lucky for over half a century with my health. I went in for a physical every two or three years for decades, and passed all of them with flying colors. I rarely took a sick day. At least I knew I was fortunate, and wondered when my luck would run out. Turns out that would be right about… now.
The therapists at MTI did wonders for both my knee and back. In two months I went from being able to bend my right knee to 105 degrees, while prone on a table, to 135 degrees. Anything over 125 is very good. Various exercises strengthened my back and especially my knee to where I could walk up the stairs normally, most of the time. Things were looking good.
Then we went to Tahoe for a few days before Christmas for a family and friends gathering of 12 people. Since I do not ski or “board,” and walking any distance is still a challenge, my activities were limited. I could have joined the others for ice skating, since I am skilled at that, but I did not want to risk further damage to the knee. As a result, I spent a lot of time either watching football games on TV or joining the clan for hilarious good times around the fire, etc., at all times sitting in a puffy couch or chair.
That plus two plane rides meant that by the time we got home my lower back was in a bad state. One of the treatments for that had been icing my lower back for 20-25 minutes at a time, and on the 10th I tried that. With disastrous results.
When I tried to get up I was in agony. There was no posture than did not bring with it incredible pain. I knew I was going to pass out or throw up, or both. With Susan’s help, we got me into a recliner chair, and she gave me an Oxycontin pill left over from when this all started back in September. Then things got worse.
I evidently passed out from the pain. Never done that before. Susan reports that my eyes rolled back in my head, my breathing was raspy, I was pale as a white turnip, and there was some foaming at the mouth while I emitted unintelligible sounds. I am so sorry Susan had to witness this, as it must have been horrifying.
When I came to Susan was in my face and words were coming through, but what she was saying made no sense for quite some time. She was on the phone to 911, trying to describe my condition. Eventually she apologized to the operator because she felt she was yelling. She left me to go open the front door for the EMTs who were en route.
This is one of those times when you have to be grateful for the medical assistance that is so close at hand in our area. Next thing I knew I was surrounded by about 5 people. A couple of EMTs began running a battery of tests while quizzing me as to my condition.
They wanted to see if I had suffered a heart attack or a stroke or some other horror. Susan gave them better information than I did. There were also two techs from the ambulance service, as well as a high school student on a ride-along.
I was now fully awake again, and sweating like I’ve never experienced. Perspiration was shooting out of all the pores on my head, and in a minute or so my tee-shirt was literally wringing wet.
It’s a stereotype, but even in dire straits I was struck by the good looking EMT working on me. Dark hair, a muscular build, and bright blue eyes, he looked like a central casting call for the role of the EMT in the movie. In a way it did not seem real.
One of the positive things that happened here was that I relaxed. I was obviously surrounded by highly competent pros that did not seem to think there was anything serious going on. Or at least they were able to convey that impression, whether true or not. My job was to sit back and relax and let them do their job. Which I did, with gratitude.
I needed to be transported to Evergreen Hospital, and the next thing we discovered was that I could not stand up. If I tried, the pain was excruciating. I was asked for the pain level on a scale of 1 -10, and I replied “8.” Susan gaped at me, but I was recalling the time I tore my knee up in a basketball game. That was worse, but only lasted a minute or two, so I probably should have upped my answer. But the Oxy had begun to take effect, and the mind tries to forget extreme pain as soon as possible.
If I could not walk, they would carry me. First they had to lift my 225 pounds of dead weight (almost literally dead weight) from the recliner into a chair. I was strapped in and wheeled backwards down the hall, and then carried down our stairs, out the front door, more stairs, and to the driveway.
That was when I noticed they had arrived in a full on big ass firetruck, the kind that has a rear steer cab. Turns out it was a busy night, and they were out of more usual vehicles. Also, it was the Woodinville fire department, as Bothell was busy with other emergencies.
As we wheeled down the sidewalk past the fire truck to the waiting ambulance, I said “Darn. I wanted to ride in the big one.”
“Me too,” answered one of the ambulance crew.
I had now accepted my condition, and relaxing was probably a good thing. On the way to Evergreen I attempted to keep track of the route being used, for no other reason than idle curiosity.
Into Evergreen’s Emergency Center, and here again the breadth and depth or modern medical care is astonishing. I think I was seen by about 10 different doctors and nurses in less than 10 minutes. Susan and I repeated what we thought had happened to several people, over and over again, while various tests were being run. Eventually I was trundled off for a chest scan, looking for blood clots.
Then back to the room to wait for results. Eventually the doctor came in and said “You’re normal.”
I replied “Nobody has ever said that to me.”
He continued with “I can’t find anything seriously wrong with you, and believe me I tried.” Of course he had to go on from there and state that obviously I had trauma in my lower back, and I might also have some hardening of the arteries in my chest, but nothing likely to be fatal. At least not yet.
And so we were sent home, with a referral for a spine specialist, another for a cardiac specialist, and a prescription for Oxycodone. We stopped on the way home at a Burger King, as it was now 11pm and I had not eaten for many hours. Worst burgers ever.
Alas, the appointment for the spine doc could not be made until Thursday the 19th, so I was now to take a Percocet every 6 hours 24 hours a day – and wait. For nine days.
This was not all bad, as it would give my back a rest, and over the next few days I learned just how much of my energy reserves I used during this small medical crisis. I emulated our two cats – sleeping an amazing number of hours a day. The pain would vary from a dull ache to quite acute, and it was difficult to predict what would lead to trauma. At times it seemed I I’d forgotten to take an Oxycodone, but we were very careful to stick to the every 6 hours. When it was bad it felt like my lower back was in spasms, although I know that is not accurate, and I could not find any posture that was not painful. Last night I hit on the idea of using a heating pad when things were bad, and that has made a world of difference.
One of the minor difficulties in all of this is that I hate to accept the need for help from anyone. Now I was totally dependent on Susan, and she got tired of my continual apologies for all of the chores that are “mine” in normal life. Imagine how many things you can do around the house if you are to avoid “exposing” your lower back – which means don’t bend over. Another is the need to accept the need for forced sloth. Fortunately, I love car auctions on TV, and this window of time happens to coincide with first a Mecum auction and then Barrett-Jackson.
And where would I be if I were alone in life? When I pondered this I easily drifted into a state of near panic. Susan has essentially stopped her entire life to attend to all of my needs. She is supportive, positive, and encouraging at all times. At times I get tears in my eyes just looking at her. By myself I don’t know what I would do, and imagining outcomes was not comfortable. At all.
We did get out of the house on Friday to go to breakfast with a few of our friends, and that was extremely helpful. Their good natured joshing just barely slid over their evident concern, and really gave me a boost.
Now we head into a new week, with a couple of appointments I need to get to. It might be painful, and I will walk slowly, but the need to get out of the house and do something will offset this.
Then there is the constipation brought on by the pain killers. I’m going to guess you would rather not hear the details.
Like I said, it’s been interesting. And really, I would rather go through this at this time of the year. I would be in dire psychological stress if the sun was out and the temperatures inviting!
Another thought – you will never appreciate the heated seats in your new car as much as when you have a sore lower back.
More when I hear from the spine doc. And the cardiologist. And…
Copyright 2017 David Preston