Sunday, June 24, 2012

And the pain began...

I moved into a condo last summer, from an apartment that had quickly grown too small.  I was thrilled to live in a complex that was quite beautiful because it was older.  It had mature trees and landscaping and large grass areas that were bigger than any yard I could afford.  It was a decent size for me- a single woman with two boys part-time.  I had neighbors that were friends of mine and that had kids the same ages as my boys.  It was literally down the street from my ex-husband's house, which made it convenient, and also close enough to both of the boys schools that they could easily walk or ride their bikes.  And I finally had a garage with my own washer and dryer again.  Simple things make the biggest difference sometimes.  Oh- did I mention that this condo has three stories? As in two staircases? (cue the eerie foreshadowing music...)

Last November I dipped into my savings and bought one new piece of furniture for the new place- a beautiful dark cherry wood wall unit.  It was delivered and put mostly into place.  I had to make some minor adjustments.  It was heavy.  And of course after I got it in place, I had to move a bunch of other stuff around.  I am usually pretty careful about pushing and lifting heavy things.  I have a long history of back and disc problems.  I had surgery on my neck about 5 years ago- a three level fusion because of three herniated discs.  I have pulled my back out many times which often left me in bed laying on ice for 3-4 days until I could move again.  20 plus years of working as a nurse didn't help it...

But being single and not having another person readily available to help move heavy things is a pain in the ass.  Too bad I was not very good at being patient and asking for help.  I had plenty of friends who would have helped me.  Instead I did it myself. I was pushing my dining room table- it really wasn't that heavy, but awkward to push, and it got stuck on my area rug.  The table stopped and I sort of kept going.  I felt a familiar ripping pain in the left side of my lower back and couldn't stand upright.  I got to the floor in sort of a crawling position up on all fours.  I stayed here for about ten minutes, hoping it was just a spasm and would pass.  It didn't.  So I crawled to the freezer slowly, got my ice packs (yes I always have ice packs handy for this reason...oh- and well I have do have two active boys...).  Then I made the agonizing crawl to the couch.  It was late, about 11pm, and slowly fell asleep.  I woke up every few hours.  When morning came, I called my neighbor, who walked over to my place (good thing I had a key outside) and she helped me get something to eat and get me upstairs into bed.  By now the pain was down into my hip and left leg- all the way to my toe. The pain was excruciating, but I had had this happen before.  Usually if I stayed put and kept icing it, I would get better slowly over a few days.

By the next day I could at least move.  I had called in sick to work.  My parents were out of the country and Thanksgiving was coming up.  I tried to get in to see my doctor right away but couldn't get an appointment.  By Thanksgiving, a week later, I was able to move pretty well, but still had pain- and the pain down my leg was worse.  With my sister's help (sometimes it's great to have doctors in my family) I was able to get an appointment the next week with a back specialist.  I saw him and he ordered an MRI and physical therapy.  He also prescribed a Medrol Dose Pack.  This is steroids you take by mouth- you start with one dose and then taper down for 5 days.  Hopefully the steroids will help any inflammation and healing in my back.  In order for me to return to work, I have to be able to pass a "lift test."  It consists of lifting 140 pounds from the floor to a table, then lifting to a higher table (shoulder tall) and then carrying it up and down small staircase.  Doctor wouldn't clear me for that, so I was to remain off.  I had to file for state disability.

I was still in pain.  I got around okay but couldn't do much lifting or bending or twisting.  The pain down my hip and leg persisted and was the real problem for me.  It was nerve pain- burning, shooting, stabbing.  I did not take any narcotics or muscle relaxants.  With my addiction history, that's a dangerous place for me to go.  I managed the pain by limiting my activity and using ice.

The thing with seeing doctors these days is how much time you spend waiting.  Before my sister helped me got this appointment, I was told from two other back specialists that it would be 3-4 weeks before I could be seen.  From my injury date, it took two weeks before I saw my doctor, and then another two before I could get an appointment for the MRI.  Most of my nursing experience was in the ER.  I think it's pretty common knowledge that ERs are overcrowded.  As a nurse, and especially as a manager, I knew the reasons why.  But now I was experiencing them first hand.  Did I mention that patience is not one of my virtues?

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