Today was a very bad day for me and I came this close to going to the emergency room. That was the last way I wanted to spend a lovely Sunday afternoon in the fall. Has anyone noticed emergencies seem to crop up at the most inconvenient times – in the middle of the night, on the weekend or holiday – whenever it’s impossible to track down your doctor?
“What was the cause of this emergency?” you’re wondering. I shall tell you: intense stabbing pain in my lower back causing my legs to tingle and radiating down to my knee and up to my neck. The slightest move caused unbearable pain. This was not the first time something like this has happened but it definitely was one of the worst and it threw me for a loop; I had been recovering nicely after a recent flare up.
I have advanced arthritis from my neck down to my knees, spinal stenosis and sciatica. With the incredible work of my physical therapist, I had gotten to a point where I was feeling great and no longer needed to take any pain meds. Now I’m back on the meds and I hate their side effects but I must weigh my options.
This has been with me in various degrees since 2003 when I had a botched meniscus repair. In 2008 I fell three feet off a deck and landed full force on my left hip, badly fracturing it. The impact was so tremendous that I must have been stunned because I felt no pain … until I tried to move. I had no idea my hip joint was totally severed. I needed emergency surgery and a hip replacement. The operation went very well and rehab was a breeze, but the broken hip and the meniscus repair were likely the beginning of my other ailments. It was all downhill from there.
The pain from the meniscus repair was ever-present and arthritis had set it. It was determined I needed a total knee replacement which was done in 2011. I went into that surgery expecting a full recovery; after all, I’d seen advertisements in health magazines and posters in doctor’s offices showing people playing golf, tennis and going skiing after a TKR. I was not one of those people who sprang right back into action. After months of rehab I was still feeling pain. I had to take the stairs one at a time and every so often my knee would buckle. It was no cake walk. In fact it was a complete failure and a few years later I was back in the hospital for a total knee revision. If you never heard of a knee revision and decide to Google it, I suggest you watch the video on an empty stomach.
Have the surgeries improved my life? Yes, but not to the degree I’d hoped. I know I’m better off having had the operations but one would think my leg would be bionic after four procedures.
To add insult to injury I developed spinal stenosis; sometimes the pain in my back was so intense I could barely walk or sit up straight. It worked its way up to my neck and made itself at home. I underwent multiple epidurals and nerve blocks, to no avail. How the hell could all these medical procedures not help? It’s frustrating and despairing; I fell into a depression and started having anxiety attacks. I lost weight, lost hope and lost the will to live. I didn’t want to do anything or see anyone, not even my precious grandchildren.
My husband was by my side constantly; he became my support system, my coach, my shoulder to cry on and my shadow. He drove me to every session with my psychologist, took me to physical therapy and prepared my meals. He did all the shopping and laundry. He was there to sooth me during a crying jag or a panic attack. The man was a saint. If it wasn’t for him and my physical therapist I don’t know where I’d be today or what condition I’d be in. Going for deep tissue massage twice a week for months was the only thing that brought me relief and I still go to physical therapy once every week. Fortunately I am no longer depressed nor do I have anxiety attacks.
So what was the cause of today’s day from hell? I saw my pain management doctor on Tuesday, October 4; she gave me a series of trigger point injections in my lower back – something I’ve had many, many times before. The next day I noticed a slight pain in the left side of my lower back. By Thursday that pain had intensified; it wormed its way up to my neck and wrapped itself around my hip, down to my knee. By the weekend I was absolutely good for nothing. I wrote this post today to take my mind off the pain; it was horrible and memories of when I was at my lowest came flooding back.
Usually I have very little pain and feel good. I’ll have a flare up when a procedure goes wrong or the weather is bad or I trip on the rug or I lift my granddaughter onto the toilet or I just do something stupid which I know I shouldn’t do. I am like a broken glass that’s been glued back together. Every time someone tries to use the glass it crumbles and breaks into pieces.
Well-meaning friends tell me to rest up, take it easy and I’ll be fine. Give yourself time to heal, they say. What they don’t understand is this is not a broken toe that will mend itself and be healed forever. What I have will never fully go away and I will never be completely healed. What they don’t know is how difficult it is for me to get into and out of the bathtub, to stand under the shower to wash my hair, to dance with my husband or to find a comfortable sleeping position.
Today was a bad day but the pain will slowly fade and I will feel better again. No one has to tell me how much worse my situation could be; I know there are multitudes of people who have it far worse than I do and there are times when I am ashamed for feeling sorry for myself. Everyone’s pain is their own and everything is relative.
We all have our crosses; this is mine. I take nothing for granted. There are days when I’m walking on sunshine and then there are those days when I feel like I’m walking on broken glass.
I wish you all good health. May you never have to endure the pain of broken glass.
NAR © 2022