Big Week Coming

December 31 2002
April 24 2013
November 12 2018

This coming week is a big one. I am selling some snow tires tomorrow morning so that’s nice but then I have to go to the hospital one last time to drop off my signed release and confirm my exit from my Senior Network Engineer position. After that it is to my family doctor to check my blood pressure and refill as many of my medications as I can in case I can’t make it back for a few months. Once that is done it’s off downtown yet again for anesthesia testing before my surgery on Tuesday.

Then it’s the big day. I am at St Mike’s at 6am in case there are any early openings with the schedule so I can get in as early as possible. After that who really knows what may happen but I am committed to document my recovery this time since my recollection of my last surgery HERE is a bit foggy by now. I do remember that my recovery from surgery 2 was significantly better than after surgery 1, something that I will try to expand on a little.

My injury history started at age 14. I was playing rugby and since I played as a prop I was on the front row of the scrum and habitually ended up at the bottom af a large pile of humans as the scrum collapsed. This time however I took a nosedive into the floor and was folded in half like a playing card which caused significant injury to my lower back. This was to be the first in a long line of disc ruptures that would eventually lead me to having my first surgery. It was a delightful time of life, being a kind of fat kid at 14 wearing what was essentially a corset for half a school year was great. At least I was big enough that bullying was never really a factor but then again since when did that stop kids bagging on each other…

Fast forward to my early 30s. My back had never really been an issue for the 16 years since that rugby injury but I should have known that in the end my ego and my arrogance would catch up with me. I remember it vividly, it was October 22 1998 and I was new at my job at the hospital. I was recently 30 and my ego was still as out of control as it was in my late teens. I had been doing leg press at the gym and stupidly thought that 12 plates a side would be an attainable goal. I had done 10 a side before, a total of 950lbs but this was to be a new record for me, 1130lbs and the congratulations and plaudits from nobody since nobody cared. In my mind I assumed that I was the coolest guy in the world but in reality I came to understand over the years that in fact nobody cares, nobody is watching and admiring and in fact most people are so wrapped up in their own ego maniacal lives that their only concern is the fleeting glances they give themselves in the mirrors. The following is what I wrote after the fact (which is why I have kept journals for 35 years now…)

I sat under the ego trip I had maniacally built upon the leg press and with one fluid motion the weight sank to my glutes with the delightful popping of cartilage and bone being compressed like an old scrap car. Then came the pain, as the surgical instrument entered my skin, exposing the spine to the elements I knew it was over for the day. The steel clamps twisted my spinal column into a knot of twitching pulsating nerve ends, the searing pain engulfed me as the nerves were stretched, strand by strand around the instrument then like spaghetti from a pan, they elastically snapped apart from each other, the ends left dangling. I crawled out from under the stack of weight and began methodically removing the plates. Stumbling down the stairs I limped my path back to the lockers knowing the heaven and hell that awaited me there. The hot tub and the socks.

I had endured some back issues before, slight pain, localized and never radiating down my legs but this was far, far different. It would still be 4 more years until I went for my first surgery but that 4 years was peppered with the same issues, my back would go out I would suffer incredible pain for a week while laying on the floor trying to recover. I didn’t know what to do, what would help or how to make myself any better and if you do as much research as you can nowadays you won’t find much online that is any different. Eventually I discovered Arthrotec, something that would take my recovery window down from a week to 2 days and enable me to get back to life with much greater haste. As time went along the issues cropped up more and more frequently from once every 6 months to every couple and then each month. It was at that time that the big problem happened that led me to surgery 1. Sadly there was no big event, my back was sore, had been sore for a while and then one day I was unable to walk. Sadly I believed that it would only be a matter of time until I was better regardless of the fact that I now had radiating pain down my leg again. It was Christmas season so I was determined to rest over the holiday and be back good as new in the New Year. The pain got worse, my back went out again and I lost a large amount of mass in my leg. Waiting was a decision that I regret to this day. New Years Eve 2002 I went into surgery and spent the next 3 months regretting my delay.

I spent most of my time on the couch imagining that rest was the key to success. It is not. If you ever have back surgery let me tell you 1 inalienable truth… Mobility is healing. Walking is the best thing you can do no matter how slow or laboured. Had I known back then what I know now I would have been up every day walking as much as possible but instead I ended up with an inequality in my healing due to the amount of time spent on my side watching TV. It sickens me to think of it now.

I am going to publish this now, it is day 1 of recovery and my adventures down memory lane will have to wait.

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