Category Archives: Injury Journey

Getting Old…It’s Not For Wimps!

It’s a phrase my grandmother likes to use…only she uses a slightly less appropriate word for wimps. If she heard me use it she’d laugh in my face and promptly tell me to shut up.  No, typically a woman of 30 would not be considered old, but I’m an exception to that rule. Chronologically I’m not old, but physically I might as well be twice my age. It’s not in anybody’s best interests for me to go into detail about my mile-long list of ailments, it just illustrates the point I eventually plan on making.

I’m spending another week with my best friend to fill in at their family business. Just receptionist work, no major skill required. They just needed someone they could trust to fill in for a week. I’m glad to do it. It dawned on me since being asked to do this that I actually miss working. When I was working full time, I would daydream about being financially independent and not having to work. Now that I physically can’t work a regular full time job, I realize how good I had it.  I miss having a reason to get up in the mornings–regardless of the fact that I didn’t necessarily enjoy doing it.  I miss the daily interaction with my coworkers and patients. You don’t realize what you have until it’s gone.

When everything else is falling apart around me–my life, my body, etc.–I crave that daily constant of getting up and going to work. If your job sucks, find a new one…but don’t fantasize about being able to live without working. Trust me it’s not that glamorous.

Things I Don’t Have Time For…

For those who don’t know me, I’m the Princess of Procrastination and I value any method or means for getting around having to put forth a lot of effort to do things.  What this basically means is…I’m lazy.

I’m not lazy when it comes to my work.  I love what I do and while it DOES seem like work (as opposed to the old saying “do what you love and you’ll never ‘work’ a day in your life), it’s work I enjoy doing. When it comes to everything else, however, there are a lot of things that fall into the category of “things I have no time for.”

1. Matching Socks
I don’t mean I have no time to wear matching socks.  I do wear socks that match…most of the time…but I rarely put forth the effort to put my socks into pairs after doing laundry.  More often than not, my socks end up in a messy heap in my sock drawer.  The matching is done at the time of dressing.  I’d rather spend 2 minutes digging through a mountain of mismatched socks than take the time to put them together sock by sock.

2. Answering My Phone
Don’t take this one the wrong way.  99% of the time, if you try to call me, I will answer it.  I am referring to that 1% of time where one will text me, and if I don’t respond to the text within 2 minutes they call me. If I had the time to answer the text, I would have done so immediately. If I didn’t have time to answer a text, what makes you think I’ll have time to talk on the phone?  Give me a little breathing room, buddy. 🙂

3. Physical Therapy
This one likely only applies to myself and a very small group of others, but if you’ve ever suffered an injury or had major surgery, you know what I mean. Doctors and Physical Therapists must think people have all the time in the world! Usually a person is prescribed physical therapy 6-8 weeks postoperatively–about the same time a person goes back to work. Do you think a person who works full time and has just returned to work after two months has time to leave for a couple of hours three days a week?  Probably not.

4.  Stupid Questions
I know there’s a saying “There’s no such thing as a stupid question.” Well, I beg to differ.  If a person is asking a question because they genuinely don’t know something, that’s perfectly fine. What I don’t have time for is answering questions I’ve already given the answer to. The asker would KNOW the answer had they been paying attention when I said it the first time. If I take the time to explain something to a person, I’m ok with clarifying things…but don’t ask me to re-explain something because you were too busy looking at your phone and nodding your head as if you heard everything I said.

5. Fake People
This is the final item on the list for today–something that was inspired by events that took place a short time ago.  Everyone encounters them–people so transparent you can see straight through them. People who play the game of being “friends” when, in all honesty, they could care less what really happens to you.  Don’t waste my time telling me we’re friends when you don’t actually care. If you don’t want to be my friend, that’s 100% your right and I won’t question your reasons. I’d much rather encounter people I KNOW aren’t my friends than those people who make nice and say they’re your friend, but when you hit a rough patch they’re nowhere to be found…or who are so sweet to your face, but you find out later they talk about you behind your back.  It may be a cliche, but…

I issue a word of caution to you. It may make me sound pessimistic, but I know this from personal experience.  You may think you have the best friends in the world and that they would be there for you no matter what.  That may be the case, and if so, you’re a lucky person…but in most circumstances, it isn’t the case.

You’ve heard the phrase “Hard times reveal who your true friends are.” I had heard it a thousand times and thought my friends are real. They’d be there for me no matter what. Unfortunately I did hit hard times and was issued a painful slap in the face of reality.

When I injured my spine nine months ago, my “friends” ended up falling into three categories:  real friends, apathetic acquaintances, and non-friends.

My real friends learned of my plight and called me or texted me immediately. They checked on me, were interested in what happened and the course of treatment, they continued to check on me throughout the first surgery, recovery, second surgery, recovery, third surgery, and are still very much a part of life during this third period of recovery.  They’ve sent cards, texts, flowers. Some haven’t done much at all other than let me know they’re still there. That they care. That they are available anytime I need them.  Those are the people for whom I am the most thankful.  If not for them and my family, I am not sure how, or even if I would have made it through this.

The apathetic friends were tricky.  When they learned I’d been hurt, they would text once in a long while. Kept up with me to some extent through the first surgery and recovery experience. Then the second surgery rolled around and slowly these friends started to disappear. I’d go a long time without hearing from them so I’d text or try to call them and be met with no response.  Some responded at first to my attempts at contact but they too eventually went off the radar. And no, I didn’t send them messages asking them why they hadn’t checked on me. I would simply text them asking how they were doing. I missed them.  Some asked me if I wanted to go out and do things at the very first–things I was physically unable to do.  I would respond with a decline, thanking them for trying to include me. Then I would offer to do something I was able to do–go out to eat, etc, but no. They didn’t want to.  Some just vanished because they had lost their “hanging out” buddy.  It hurt.  I didn’t know what I could do to fix it. To mend our friendship I cherished…

The non-friends learned I’d been injured and immediately decided I was a lost cause to them.  These are the ones that not once checked on me, and any attempts on my part to get in touch with them fell on deaf ears.  If I saw them in public, it was as if I didn’t exist.  These people are the type who make friends according to what you can do for them.  If you can’t do anything for them–even for only a short time–you are of no further use to them and you are cut off completely.

The fourth category–which I didn’t list originally–is the cruel non-friend. I didn’t list it initially because only one person–thank God–fell into this category.  This person checked on me a few times and I thought we were cool.  She found out about my second surgery and texted me while I was in the operating room. Since I was under anesthesia and subsequently on a dilaudid pain pump and completely oblivious to the world around me, my phone was off for 3 days.  On the third day I turned it back on, saw her message, and responded, apologizing for taking 3 days and explaining why it took so long. Thinking she’d understand–especially since she knew I was having to undergo a second emergency surgery–I sent the message (she didn’t answer the phone) and didn’t think about it again. A while later, I received a very long text in response. I was basically told I was worthless as a friend, I was rude and inconsiderate for not answering sooner, that she didn’t want to hear my stupid complaining (sorry I mentioned I had to have surgery again, and sorry I was unable to text while completely asleep) and that she was no longer interested in maintaining a “friendship” with me.

I had people in all of these group I loved very much and whose friendship I valued greatly. People I thought would be friends for life. People I never in a million years would think could be so cruel. Going through something like this injury has been the most painful–physically as well as emotionally–as I’ve ever experienced. This hard time truly has been a major eye-opener.

I can’t begin to describe how much I missed the people who vanished. Even the person who was so cruel and refused to understand the facts. I cried a lot. I worried and worried about why I had lost them and what to do to get my “friends” back. I felt responsible for ruining my friendships with these people I cared for.

Then it hit me.

I hadn’t done a thing wrong! Yes, I had lost some “friends,” but in the grand scheme of things, they weren’t friends at all! If you do all you are physically, mentally, and emotionally capable of doing to maintain a friendship and it makes no difference to a person, you never had a friendship in the first place. I realized that I was starting to spend so much time worrying about losing a few friendships that I was in danger of neglecting the friendships I still had! I was devoting more of my time and energy to these people who couldn’t have cared less about me than I was to the ones who did care! My priorities got mixed up, and I set about correcting it.

It took a little bit, but I was able to accept what had happened with those so-called friends. I began to take inventory of what these people did, didn’t do, and who they were. When I really considered it, I learned these people were not the kind of people I needed to associate myself with. When we were together, we never did anything good. It was always something I questioned whether or not I should do. Things morally I would never have done before meeting them. When I really examined the friendships I had, those who had vanished really fell short of what a friend really should be. I compared how they treated me to how they treated others I knew to be their friends. I discovered I was, in their minds, a pity-friend or a tolerable friend. When you get right down to it, they had no need for me in their life and I learned I had no need for them in mine.

I learned to cherish the people who really were my friends even more. I learned a lot about myself and what I should and shouldn’t tolerate when it comes to how I’m treated. I’ve always had such low self esteem that I took any abuse a person could heap on me just to call them a friend. I finally understood that I have value, too. No one deserves to be treated badly. Everyone is worth something to someone. Even me.

Since learning these things and coming to terms with them, my life has been enriched immeasurably! I finally have enough respect for myself to be a better friend to those I care about. I also have enough self respect to stand up for myself. No one has the right to put me down and I have no right to put anyone else down. My friendships mean more and my life is better. I’m happier. I’m stronger. Even though I’m still going through hell physically, emotionally I’m healthier than I’ve ever been, and it feels good.

Love and cherish the people who love and cherish you. Never, ever let anyone treat you like a second-class citizen. You deserve happiness as much as anyone else. Hold on to the people who want to be in your life. If there are people who don’t meet these requirements for life, ask yourself…are they worth it? Try to mend the relationship–if it can be mended. If you find out the relationship is toxic, however, you’re not doing anyone a favor by maintaining it. If someone is bringing you down, making you feel like you aren’t worthwhile, CUT ‘EM LOOSE. Everyone deserves happiness and healthy relationships.

Everyone.

Day 2 In The Continuing Journey…

So, I heard from Ebony, Dr. McCarthy’s nurse today.  She was calling with the date for my epidural steroid injection.  It’s been scheduled a week later than Dr. McCarthy wanted, thus pushing progress on my surgery back by another week.  I’m not thrilled about this.  The further it’s pushed back, the longer I have to live in constant fear and dread of the surgery.  It also means living in pain another week.  Plus, the more the surgery is pushed back, the closer the surgery will be to Thanksgiving.  I was really hoping to be back to a semi-normal state by Thanksgiving, since we have family coming in and it’s really the beginning of my favorite time of year.  I didn’t want to be inhibited or incapacitated for Thanksgiving, as I usually do a lot of the cooking.  I do that because I love it!  I love all the cooking and preparing for Thanksgiving, and I really don’t want to be forced into a sideline seat due to surgery.

My mom was also hoping to have my help with the cooking,  as the majority of the cooking responsibilities fall on her.  I don’t want her to be stuck with the majority of the work this year.  The main reason, though, is of course to not spend Thanksgiving in pain.

The pain today was pretty bad, but tolerable.  The medication I’m taking is helping pretty well.  The only problem is, it’s a narcotic and I really don’t want to depend on narcotic pain relievers to ease the back pain. Unfortunately nothing else has helped so far, as we’ve tried practically every anti-inflammatory medication there is.  I’ve also taken several rounds of steroids all to no avail.  That’s another reason I’m ready to get this surgery behind me in hopes it will lead to not needing to rely on pain medication of any kind just to get through the day.

The Future of This Blog

So, I hope you read my last post about Martha Long’s final memoir.  You owe it to yourself to read her story.  All 7 of her books will change you.

Now, this blog is going to be taking a different direction in the future.  Right now it is just my outlet to talk about things I enjoy, things I’ve seen, read, etc.  It has no real theme.  Well, in the future, it will have a very definitive theme.   In the future, with the exception of an odd post here or there, this blog will be my place to write about my health experiences.  So many people have blogs about their journey with disease or injury, and this will be mine.

I have written previously about the spine problems I was born with and the injury I sustained on the job while working as a registered nurse.  In April 2013 I injured my spine while trying to position a patient for surgery.  In May 2013 I had surgery to repair a broken vertebrae and two herniated disks.  I then developed a post-operative infection and hematoma requiring a second surgery.  Since then I have been suffering from increasing pain and other symptoms as a result of the spine injury.

Over the last four months I have had two surgeries, three epidural steroid injections, and four MRIs.  The most recent MRI revealed my spine has deteriorated a great deal in that amount of time.  So over the next few weeks, I will be undergoing some tests and other procedures to map out every part of my lumbar spine to pinpoint exactly where and what needs repair.  My surgeon is also consulting with various other spine specialists to help come up with the best plan possible.  Once all that comes together, I will be having my third spine surgery in four months.  This surgery will, unfortunately, be much worse than the previous two.  It will involve at a minimum three, possibly four levels of my lumbar spine.  My doctor is going to attempt to repair herniations on three or four disks, decompress the nerves and remove portions of vertebrae and vertebral joints to help open up the canal of my spine and take the pressure off my spinal nerves.  This could weaken my spine but, hopefully, result in decreased pain in the long run.  Right now I live in constant pain, which has resulted in a drastic change in my life, my work, and my happiness  Since May I’ve had to leave the job I loved, sell my house, and have developed severe depression–which I suppose is only natural.  I can’t live like this anymore, and though this surgery will be risky and drastic, it is my only chance to get back to a semi-normal life…and I have to do whatever I can to get my life back.

This blog will be my place to discuss what is happening, vent my emotions (when necessary), and describe all the things I have done.  Many people do this with a blog to help them keep up with everything concerning their injury or illness.  I want to be able to keep up with the symptoms, the names of people who help me, the name of the procedures I have to undergo.  I want to be able to have a written record of it all to look back on…and hopefully to use in order to gauge my improvement…

So, with that being the goal, I’ll start this new phase of my blog by describing what happened today.

I saw Dr. McCarthy and she told me all the things I described earlier about my spine’s further deterioration.  She hates to do another surgery, but we all had to accept the fact that it is really the only option left available to us.  She will be discussing my case with her father–another spine surgeon who happens to have also operated on me–as well as some of her partners.

I had my fourth MRI yesterday which revealed the further deterioration of my spine.  It left me in excruciating pain, thanks to having to lie on a flat, hard table without moving for half an hour.  I lost feeling in both my legs during the MRI, which resulted in a 5 minute wait before I was able to stand up and walk out of the room to get changed and go home.

After reviewing the MRI, Dr. McCarthy showed me all the areas that were damaged enough to be causing me pain.  Because there are so many potential problem areas, she wants to be sure she targets all the areas that need to be fixed when I have the surgery.  Her feeling is that she will need to work on three or four areas in my lumbar spine.  This will be a painful, difficult surgery, but if it’s the only hope I have of getting back to a life where I’m able to stand or walk for more than five or ten minutes, I’m willing to go through it.  It will be a long recovery period as well.  The surgery will also be risky.  There’s always the risk of damaging nerves, which can result in loss of feeling, loss of function, or worse…which I don’t want to even discuss.  Then there are the complications that come as a risk of any surgery.  Since I’ve had previous infection in the area, and she will be working on the same area that the infection occurred, I will have a high risk of developing another post-op infection.

There is one disk that is newly herniated and the pain I’m experiencing seems to line up with what I would be feeling with an injury to that disk.  In order to make sure that disk is, in fact, part of the problem, I will be undergoing another epidural injection targeting that disk.  Usually these injections are to provide relief, but in my case significant relief is not likely.  Dr. McCarthy wants to do the injection anyway, however, to determine if I experience any relief whatsoever.  If I do, she will know that she needs to work on that disk as well when she operates.

I’m just feeling very confused and overwhelmed right now.  The last thing I wanted was another surgery!  I do want to make the pain end, though.  I am terrified about the whole situation, but I’m trying to stay positive.  While this is definitely not a good situation, I’m just thankful I have a supportive family and some very supportive friends.  I’m grateful to have something like this that has hope of repair.  I’m thankful I don’t have cancer or some other terrible disease.   No matter how bad things may seem, I try to remember there is always someone else out there who has it far worse than I do.  I may never regain full ability to function normally, but my condition is not life threatening.  And I do have hope of recovery.  For that, I’m very thankful.

Final Notes:

  • Thanks to everyone who reads my blog and for all the support I’ve been given.  I’ll still post some other things besides stories of my health!
  • Thomas Garr, I miss you.  Those who should know why, do.
  • Anyone have any book suggestions?  I’m going to need some reading ideas, as I’ve finished Martha Long’s books and now feel lost without them!
  • Anyone else going through similar issues or health problems of their own who wish to connect or tell their story, please contact me!
  • Trying to get through this month.  A good friend of the family is in the hospital suffering from a likely heart attack.  I sincerely hope she’s ok.  Also October 18 is the day my uncle died last year.  I miss him SO MUCH still.