Our View From Here

Perspectives of Five Women

Life throws a wrinkle…

on September 9, 2010

My life and my job were fairly different a little over two years ago.  I was actively doing heavy lifting and physical activity at work. I would get to the end of the day filthy feeling like I did something all day. Then the end of May 2008 happened. Life’s wrinkle I alluded to in my introduction. It was the Thursday before Memorial day weekend and my back was sore to the point where I hardly could move. I had to leave work early not thinking of the Workman’s comp joy I’d get to deal with just the pain.

I called an orthopedic doctor I’d been to before explaining my pain. He didn’t even want to see me without an MRI first.  Before I go much further I should explain something. My mother is an Operating Room(OR) nurse. Her primary job is to schedule the various surgeries and nurses in the OR. Many of the best surgeons in the area are her colleagues and have known her for years. In many cases they owe her. This comes in handy from time to time. Thanks to her connections I was able to get the MRI the Tuesday after Memorial Day. I saw the orthopedic doctor the next day.

I arrived at his office with my MRI in hand and my mother at my side. All this time I am hobbling like I’m 90. I have throbbing pain in my back,  shooting down my leg and couldn’t really feel my left foot. We went in with the doctor.  He takes one look at my MRI looks at my mom and goes “Do you see it?” My mother “Oh yeah, wow.” This is the draw back of bringing my mom. I’m lying on the doctors table curious about what they’re oo-ing and ah-ing about. They finally pointed to my MRI specifically the very pretty white line that is my spinal cord. I look at it and say, “I guess there isn’t supposed to be a notch in it.” No there isn’t. I also shouldn’t be able to see it from across the room. I have a herniated disc. An EXTREMELY herniated disc. He tells me he’ll give me vicodin and muscle relaxants for the pain. I may not need surgery but just in case he wants me to see a neuro-surgeon.  He doesn’t operate on backs, he feels there’s too many nerves in the area and should be left to a neuro-surgeon. Ok by me. My mother goes with him and I can hear them talking in the hall. Both saying things like “She’s going to need surgery. if not now then sometime later this will lead to surgery.” I’ve never had major surgery in my life.  One of my bigger fears in life at the time is that I would do something stupid, wreck my back, and need surgery (Heh). I’d see the neuro-surgeon the following week. He is very conservative and would do surgery as a last resort (Heh). He gave me  a prescription for steroids to try and calm my back down. I spent the next week taking my steroid dose pack and pain killers around the clock.

A week later I’m with the neuro-surgeon  (again with mom in tow).  After about 5 minutes in his office doing a couple painful tests, he says he’s looked at my MRI’s and since the steroid pack obviously did nothing we needed to do surgery.  Great. One of my biggest fears was about to come to pass. Here’s the part I found “funny”. Don’t forget, my mom takes care of the OR schedule.  the doctor says “We’ll put you in for first thing Tuesday.” My mother immediately replies “You already have a case in that slot.” His response? “We’ll have to move it.” What?! How BAD was my back?! And how cool is it that my mom remembers the next week’s OR schedule. No wonder she forgets things around the house. She’s thinking of how many knee surgeries are on the calendar.

Surgery day comes around. I went through surgery fine. The nurse anesthetist that put me under was amazed at now many drugs she had to pump into me to knock me out. My mom then pointed out that I’d been on Vicodin and hefty muscle relaxants around the clock for a little over two weeks. Apparently I’d built up a tolerance. The surgery took about 2.5 hours. The doctor removed a piece of my disc a little smaller than a cherry. There was a nerve stretched over the hernia so it took a little longer than he expected. Hearing this I was glad I went to him. My mom approved of him because he does about 10 back surgeries a week. He knows his way around a back. Now imagine how I felt when he said “That was really an impressive herniation.” Well good for me! Glad that I wrecked my back good and proper. I wouldn’t want to be a slacker about it. Really my ability to severely hurt myself is not how I want to impress someone.

I went home the next day and started my long road to recovery with physical therapy and continued dealings with workman’s comp.  Both of those will need to wait for another week. They are truly stories in their own right . Trust me.

One thing I will say. This whole experience has given me an interesting new perspective and a 2″ scar on the small of my back.  I’ve survived one of my big fears. I’ve almost completely recovered. This has shown me that I’m mentally stronger than I realized. I CAN come back from something agonizing. I just have to work at it. It’s amazing how life wrinkles can do that.

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