Sunday, August 12, 2018

Oh My Aching Back!

The Alexander Master, Jesus Curing the Paralytic Woman
From a History Bible
Dutch (Utrecht), c. 1430
The Hague, Koninklijk Bibliotheek
MS KB 78 D 38, fol. 170r
In the course of the next day or so I will be posting my latest article, which has been a long time in the making.  There has been a long time between this and the last post of any substance.  Several have been begun, but not completed and they will have to wait for another time.

The reason for all this lack of action is my back.  For the last twelve years I have been experiencing the onset and gradual worsening of the condition known as spinal stenosis.  Put very simplistically, that is arthritis of the spine.  It affects the vertebrae and other bony structures of the back.  It has gradually worsened over the years, but a mixture of medication, physiotherapy, massage and a few cortisone shots have helped me maintain an active life, especially since I retired, when the daily trauma of sitting for hours at the computer was removed from it.

Starting in mid-September of last year a series of spectacular falls, only one of which really caused me any serious pain or loss of mobility, may have added to the stress on my lower back, which is where the most damage has been done.  Nevertheless, there was no reason to suspect that anything dreadful was about to happen.

Around the middle of June I began to notice that when I first stood up in the mornings, I had some pain that was not relieved immediately by my "first thing" exercises.  However, on moving around a bit the pain went away.  Then I began to experience some pain on moving from a seated to a standing position.  But, again, once in motion the pain went away.  I continued with my routine daily activities, resolved to mention it to my physiatrist (Specialized MDs whose field is Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation) at my next appointment at the end of July, following her return from vacation.

Then, came the morning of June 30.  I had gone to bed the night before feeling tired from my normally busy day at one of the Metropolitan Museum's information desks, but no more than tired.  When I tried to get out of bed the following morning, I was in pain.  Trying to stand up was unbelievably painful.  I was completely unable to do it.  The only way in which I was able to walk was bent at a 900 angle.  In that dreadful angle I managed to get through the weekend, while I waited for Monday to speak to a doctor.

Unfortunately, through a series of regrettable occurrences, I had a great deal of difficulty in reaching a doctor who could help me. Everything was compounded by the fact that this butted right up against July 4 and many doctors were on vacation.  I remained in the position of the old woman shown in the manuscript illustration above, bent over at the waist, leaning on a cane for support, for two weeks.  When I emerged from the elevator for the first time, the shock on  the doorman's face was very evident.  Ditto for my internist whom I saw around this time as well.  Since most of the relevant doctors were unavailable the only suggestion around was to go to an emergency room.

The trip to the emergency room was of little help, however,  for the poor resident or intern or PA who saw me could do little for me.   I did eventually get to my physiatrist (a specialized MD who is board certified in Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation) during the second week of July, having already suffered for a full two weeks.  So began the search for a medication that would help with the pain and a search for a more permanent solution.

It took several tries at combinations of medicines to finally reach something that helps.  In the two and a half weeks I've been taking it I have begun to experience a bit less pain.  I still have a great deal in the mornings and walking more than a few feet brings on dreadful, stabbing pain, but I can stand a bit taller, am not so hunched, and can tolerate short distances better.  I can now make it to the garbage chute on my floor, as well as to the elevator, though I still need to collapse in the lobby for a bit.

I have learned the value of car hailing apps, although I still refuse to use Uber or Lyft, in favor of Arro and Curb (which call medallion yellow cabs).  I am using them to transport me door to door for appointments.  And I am leaning as never before on food delivery services, thankful that I live in an ares (Upper East Side of Manhattan) where such services are readily available.  Friends have been filling in the blanks with visits to Trader Joe's (love their garlic roasted hummus) or local groceries and delis.  Other friends have been coming to help by doing the laundry and changing the sheets.  I can never repay their kindness enough.

I am now engaged in interviewing different surgeons to see who will get the prize of operating on my back.  An MRI has revealed that in one area (and one area only) the spinal stenosis has become quite severe (in the rest of me it is described as being "mild" or "moderate".  Basically, there is so much arthritis in this one place that there is no room left for the nerves to pass and they are being painfully compressed.  Should this continue, over time I could lose the use of my left leg.  In addition, I have a herniated disc between two of my vertebrae and the upper of these two vertebrae has also moved (slipped) slightly over the edge of the one below, further squeezing the already over-squeezed nerves.

With all this going on I have found it difficult to complete work on at least two major planned articles.  The one I will present has been long in the planning, but the research for it has had to be done in very small chunks of time, only so much as I can tolerate.  I'm afraid it will be like this for some time to come.

I ask if, in your charity, you will say a prayer for me, that I may find the right surgeon to operate with the right technique to help me continue to live the life I was living up till June 30.  Pray that I find in his or her hands the healing power of Jesus shown in the picture above.  Thank you for your prayers.  

1 comment:

Unknown said...

I am so sorry to hear this news but relieved to hear that you have friends and services available to ease the difficulty of your situation. I will add your intentions to my daily Rosary. May God bless you.