Friday, April 22, 2016

My four weeks in hell....

There is a hell on's pain.  I'm writing this post mostly for myself so I can wrap the last 4 weeks up into a big ball and let it go.

Week 1: On Easter weekend, my back...for lack of a better word...seized up.  I stayed home on Monday and took some Motrin hoping it would relax.  I went in to work on Tuesday but I couldn't walk more than 25 feet without having extreme pain. So I went down to our walk-in clinic. I work on a major medical campus and the walk-in clinic is the equivalent of 4 city blocks away.  By the time I got there I was sobbing.  They took me right in and prescribed muscle relaxers and anti-inflammatories.  But then I had to walk back to my office and then another 2 blocks over to the Pharmacy.  At one point I found a bench and sat down and cried. An employee...nobody I know...came and sat with me and talked me through the pain.  He was such a great guy.  He said he hated to see someone cry and wanted to help. I don't remember his name but I am grateful for the compassion he showed me.  The next day I felt a little better and thought maybe I could put this behind me.  By Thursday I called my husband to come home and take me to he ER.

The nurse practitioner had me get up on the exam table. She lifted up my left leg and I burst out crying it hurt so much. I didn't know anything could hurt that much.  So they gave me some Percocet and I waited to be taken to x-ray. They took three x-rays of my spine in the ER.  I had to stand for this procedure. After the second x-ray they had to sit me down because I was close to passing out from the pain  Back in my little waiting room the nurse came in to ask about my pain level (on a scale of 1-10). At the time I was leaning over the exam table trying find a comfortable spot and to catch my breath.  I think I said "10" but if felt more like 100. No matter how I sat or stood I could not find a position that relieved the pain.  The diagnosis was lumbar radiculopathy which is nerve irritation caused by damage to the discs. Just Lovely.  I was sent home with steroids, pain killers, and more anti-inflammatories and told to see my physician in a week.

Week 2: For the next 6 days I had constant pain even with the Percocet. It started to diminish to maybe a 80% but never went away.  There was no position I could take that would relieve it.  I couldn't sleep in my bed.  I tried sleeping on the floor with my legs elevated on a chair.  I tried sleeping in a multitude of chairs. I had a bevy of pills and wasn't' sure if I could combine the muscle relaxers and the pain killers. I hadn't seen my physician yet because she was out on vacation.  I couldn't see a nurse practitioner because after an ER visit they want you to see your physician...who by the way was totally booked up.  They put me on a waiting list and said they would work me into her schedule.  I finally got an appointment for the follow Monday....5 days away even though she was back on Thursday.

Wednesday night when the steroids tapered off the pain came back with a vengeance.  Before bed time I decided to try the muscle relaxers instead of the pain killers....big mistake.  I spent the night moving from chair to chair.  Ben, my big bruiser of a cat, followed me.  I sat in a rocking chair and he sat at my feet. I laid on the floor and he laid beside me.  At one point I sat up on the floor and wrapped my legs around the chair and put my head on the seat of the chair.  I managed to sleep a bit like this.  I moved to the couch and Ben moved with me.  I sat on the edge of the couch and just shook for a couple hours.  I contemplated waking up my husband to go back to the ER but didn't think they would do anything different than what i was already doing.  At some  point I decided I didn't care if I mixed my drugs...I popped a couple of Percocet.  I then sat in a dinning room chair with my legs up on another chair...wrapped in a blanket.  Ben sat on the table beside me. As I started to fall asleep I started to lean.  Ben reach out and tapped me a few times with his paw to wake me up before I fell off the chair..

I called the office on Thursday morning and told them I had been in severe pain all night long and needed to see her immediately.  They got me in that morning. After an examination my physician said she didn't think it was disc related but muscle and nerve related...sciatica.  I didn't have typcial sciatic pain down the leg.  It started in my lower back and moved up over my hip  into my groin. The groin muscle was especially troublesome because when I tried to stand up or walk it was so tight I couldn't stand upright or walk very far. So....a longer dose of steroids, more Percocet and more anti-inflammatories.  

Percocet comes with it's own issues. No way I could get addicted to these...they made my stomach queasy and they give you massive....massive constipation.  It just seems to stop your bowels from functioning at all...I know...TMI.  So what little I did eat just seemed to make my stomach bigger and bigger and created it's own pain.

I was also referred to a Chiropractor...which most physicians will not do.  But my physician had a similar experience years earlier and the only relief she got was from a Chiropractor and she only refers to this one person. I've never been to one but know a number of people who swear by them.

Week 3: My first visit to the Chiropractor she had my face down on the table and she tapped on my hips and lower back.  She said my right side was flexible and my left side felt like a brick.  When I explained the pain she said she knew exactly the muscle involved....the iliopsoas.  She was able to show me the muscles on a model and explained how she would treat me.  The treatments are more like deep tissue massage and after the first treatment I walked out....WALKED OUT... with very little pain.  I spent the entire evening in a peaceful state able to sit on the couch and just be.  So I'm hooked.... I'm a believer.  The paid came back but not quite as bad and I had now experienced that this pain can go away. It had crossed my mind more than once that I might be like this forever.

I am seeing her twice a week for three weeks.  On my third visit she really worked the muscles and trigger points in my butt.  I told her it was tender but I was OK with what she was doing.  I woke up in the middle of the night and it felt like someone had taken a hammer to my butt.....OMG.  I popped a few more motrin and a Percocet and fell back asleep.  Things were better in the morning.

Week 4: I started back to work this week...on restricted duties.  I am only allowed to work 4 hours a day but I am usually there 5-6 hours.  The beginning the week was iffy. It was obvious I was still in pain. By Wednesday I could tell I was turning a corner.  I felt better, Every day I have been feeling better and believing that I can recover from this.  We have a friend who is a radiologist so we had him re-read the x-rays today.  He said there is some narrowing of the spine but that comes with age.  He also got another radiologist involved.  They both concur that the way the pain is radiating... up over the hip and into the groin rather than down the leg...they don't believe it is the spine but rather muscle and nerve.

So I am trying to grasp the events of the last 4 weeks.  It's left me weakened...both mentally and physically.  I cry a lot even though the pain is diminished.  I cry thinking about what this whole ordeal has taken out of me, I cry from fear that this will come back, I cry for the kindness and compassion that people have shown me.  My best friend sent me candy to keep my spirits up, the Admin team at work...the very best team I have every worked with...sent me flowers twice and e-mails checking up on me. My husband, my strength, has taken care of me and tried to make me laugh and he has worried about me.

So what do I take away from all this.

-Some obvious things...I need to lose weight and get in shape.  I had already started that process. I'm down 12 lbs. and though I won't be starting an aggressive exercise program I will be getting physical therapy to make me stronger.

-I sit too much.  I sit all day at work and I sit all night at home.  I have already talked to my boss about a Varidesk which can take your computer set up from a sitting to a standing position in a few seconds. I think standing for part of the day will be beneficial.  I also need to get walking at night. I am wearing my Fitbit again so I can monitor my progress in walking.  It's going slow but that's OK.  Even a few steps more each day is an accomplishment.

-I have gained new compassion. Everyone has something going on in their lives.  Everybody has pains, everybody has something that is worrying them. I have two friends who are going through breast cancer, another one just lost her mother, I just recently lost a friend to heart disease. I hope this has made me more compassionate and that I will strive to be kind to people.  If we don't do it...if we aren't kind to the person next to us...who will be.  And that small act of the young man sitting with me when I was crying.... can make a big difference