Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Dead bone

My father had come with me today to see Dr #3.  It was a few days before my 44th birthday.  I was getting the results of my follow-up MRIs- of my lumbar spine and of my pelvis.  The pelvis MRI was done just in case we had missed something and the pain that I was still experiencing after surgery was coming from some other place besides my spine.

The doctor told me that my spine looked fine and that the surgical area was healing as it should be- there was no re-herniation of the disc.  But the MRI of my pelvis as not normal.  He held up the actual MRI to the viewing box and pointed to some white-ish areas in the heads of both femurs- the "ball" of the ball and socket hip joint.  He said that these areas were basically dead bone- that I had "bilateral (both sides) avascular (no blood supply) necrosis (dead bone)."  I knew that this was bad.  I was a nurse.  Any time you have dead bone it's bad.  And when it is in the most weight bearing joint of your body, it's really bad.  I am pretty sure that I went pale as the blood drained out of my face.  I know that the room suddenly looked weird to me- as if I were watching myself.  I remember looking at my father, who's stunned face matched how I felt inside.  It all made horrible sense to me now- why I had pain still, why it was in my hip, why the surgery didn't help...It's ironic how getting news like this, while devastating, also brings relief.  Relief that there was a reason, a medical diagnosis, a significant medical diagnosis, that was causing my pain.  It wasn't in my head.  I wasn't crazy.  The pain I felt was real.

I am a nurse.  And I knew what the diagnosis meant, medically.  I had taken care of many people with hip dislocations, and understood that these patients needed their hips reduced (put back into joint) in a timely matter.  Otherwise the blood supply to the bones would be impaired and cause bone death- avascular necrosis.  But I was an ER nurse and that was the extent of my knowledge about the diagnosis.  The only thing I remember, sitting in that office, was knowing enough to ask the doctor "I am going to lose my hips, aren't I?"  He looked down, and then sort of shrugged and said "Maybe."  

I don't remember too much more of what we talked about, except that this was something we had to deal with right away.  He wanted me to see a hip specialist the next day.  His partner was one, but was on vacation for another two weeks.  So he told me that he was going to call another, we'll call him Dr #4, and try to get me an appointment as soon as possible.  We also discussed pain management.  At this point, even before the bad news, I was getting worried about the pain and amount of percocet I was still needing.  I was now taking a number of powerful medications that were all prescribed by different doctors.  I wanted one doctor to oversee all of these medications, and make sure what I was taking was safe, especially given my addiction history.  I was not going to be a martyr and forego pain medicine, but I wanted to do it in the safest way possible, with a doctor who understood addiction.  Dr #3 gave me the name of someone he trusted.

I remember us joking a little bit as we left.  This doctor was, and had been, very kind.  I could tell he was extremely sympathetic to my situation and to the pain I was in.  The laughter we shared was about the fact that we knew he was relieved that I was no longer his "problem patient."  He said that as soon as they got in touch with the hip doctor, they would call me.

As we exited the doctor's office building, I looked up at the sky and said aloud "Thanks a lot.  Like you haven't thrown enough crap at me already."  There were tears now.  And I was scared.  I am usually pretty good at accepting what I cannot control these days.  But on that day, I had had it and frankly I was pissed off at my higher power.  You know that saying "Whatever doesn't kill you makes you stronger?"  I was (still am) SO sick of hearing that!  (Thank you very much, Kelly Clarkson, for putting the phrase I hate the most to music that has topped the charts, by the way...)  I am as strong as I want to be right now.  But what I want and what I get are two very different things.   There are things in my life that happened to me because of my poor choices, I accept that.  And then there are things that happen, that simply JUST HAPPEN.  It makes no sense to me right now, I can't see a reason for it, or find my part in it.  But I have faith that someday I will have a better understanding.  I will be able to appreciate this experience.  There will be gifts in all of this.  It may not be clear to me now, but I have faith that it will be revealed to me when I am ready to hear it.

But that day, I was pissed off, scared, and anxious about what was to come.

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