Catastrophic Failure

My back has been sore for a few weeks. It started at night when I would wander to the washroom in the dark and sit so that I wouldn’t pee on the dog. When I stood up I would get a sharp twinge in the base of my spine on the right, an all too familiar pain that usually indicates an oncoming storm of pain and medication. It didn’t get any worse, I spent weeks with a new pain that I wasn’t too familiar with, a shooting pain but with no radiation down my leg. On Thursday night, all that changed. During the week I had twisted getting out of bed and the pain had become worse and despite my taking my painkillers and very strong anti inflammatories (diclofenac) I was unable to get the pain to stop. Friday morning, of course the day Nicole was out of town at a conference, I woke up and as I stood up the familiar 50,000 volt bolt of lightning went from my back to my feet. This was no ordinary back outage, this was unfamiliar in the degree of pain and immediate lack of mobility. I am not ashamed to say I lay back on the bed and cried, partly due to the frustration of my body failing me again and partly because the pain was so intense I couldn’t breathe.

This is something I never wanted Elyse to see, but she had a front row seat to my pain and it visibly shook her. She was very good to fetch my phone and my medication and after taking my pills I lay there waiting for one of three things. First for the pain to subside, even partly, enough so I could stop sobbing and control my breathing. Second for Nicole to come home so I could call an ambulance and get to a hospital. Third if necessary for death to stop the pain that consumed me. I am not suicidal by any means and I have, thanks to my back issues, and extraordinary tolerance for pain but this was a whole new level of agony that I hadn’t experienced before. Not only did I feel like I had a knife in my spine but I felt like I had acid running through my veins, burning my leg from the inside out, igniting every nerve producing a concerto of pain orchestrated for the sole function of creating a hell on earth. As time passed the pain got worse, Nicole got home and called the medics and once they arrived I admit I snapped. I couldn’t handle the pain, it was simply too much. I panted like a dog on a hot summer day while shaking like I was being electrocuted. I went in and out of consciousness, they were unable to give me any more pain killers due to the percocet I had already taken, thankfully at the hospital the story was a different one.

I don’t really remember the ride, the medic was trying to be as encouraging as he could while trying to keep me conscious. It must have been quite a sight seeing someone of my size crying like a baby, sobbing uncontrollably and shouting what I assume was utter nonsense about not feeling my leg and not wanting to be paralyzed. Things get more hazy as we got to the hospital, as usual the nurses were shocked at my tolerance for painkillers and after the equivalent of 40mg of morphine they left me in the hallway to settle down. I was given hydromorphone and something called ketorolac trometh which apparently is an anti inflammatory that will put even diclofenac to shame. I have to say that it worked in quite an incredible fashion. Fast forward to the next day at home and I have no pain in my back. I don’t know if that is the amount of morphine flowing through my veins or the fact that the impingement itself is gone but if it is the latter then that’s not an anti inflammatory, that is a miracle in pill form.

The rest of the day is a morphine tinted haze, I lay at home drifting in and out of consciousness contemplating why and how this had happened and trying to imagine the next steps the most obvious of which would be another trip to the hospital for my third spinal surgery. As of now, Sunday, I can walk carefully with my cane, the pain has returned to my leg but as of yet not to my back itself. The nerve pain in my leg is significantly different than any time in the past which indicates that the damage suffered by the nerve is worse then any previous time. Whereas in the past I have lost feeling in my shin below the knee, now the sensation includes my adductors / groin, all my upper thigh muscles and my knee itself.

I am not sure what the next steps will entail but what I do know is that I need an MRI to confirm if the bone has grown back and then a decision as to what type of surgery I should have. I am still of the mind that initially I should have had a fusion done, I think it would have prevented any of this follow up incident and if I have the choice I think this time that is what I will push for. I can’t have another surgery  another 10 years from now and I can’t live with this pain.

As an aside, my blood pressure issues are well documented and when they took my blood pressure at the hospital they medic warned me it would be a little high due to the stress of the pain but even he wasn’t expecting 208/101. Just as the woman at the blood donor clinic was panicked by what she saw the medic did the same and immediately informed the doctor of the reading. As far as I can tell that is about as close to a stroke or a heart attack as you can get without your organs actually exploding.

Gives a whole new meaning to a broken heart…

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