Tag Archives: injury

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.


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.

Early September Update

So, I figured it was time for another update.  Yay!

First of all, thanks to all my new followers! Two more until 800!  That’s amazing!  Thank you to everyone who has been reading my blog and suffered through my ramblings over the last several months (years)!  I appreciate each one of you!

Not much to update on, as things have kind of taken a turn for the worse around here.  I may have re-injured my back through circumstances too long and boring to list…so obviously I’m not happy about that.  I see my surgeon on September 12, so wish me luck.  I really REALLY don’t want another surgery.  😦  Over the past week I’ve been unable to really get out and do anything.  So apart from that bit of crappy news, not much has happened.

I will probably be posting another blog about my findings in my genealogy research.  Found out some more about where I’m descended from!  While the people are pretty amazing, my genealogy research has proved one thing: I’m about as American as you can get!  By that I mean my family comes from various places, not just one…and part of them have been in the United States since before the Mayflower!  I mean, to find out one of your ancestors was on the THIRD BOAT of settlers is insane!  Ten years before the Mayflower landed at Plymouth Rock…generally accepted by most Americans as the beginning of American settlement.  You don’t hear as much about the brave folks who came before them!  Of course there were even people before them, who stayed on a temporary basis.  Some people came from England and other parts of Europe and temporarily settled along the east coast for fishing.  They would typically return home, though.  Then, of course, there were the adventurers who arrived to explore the “New World” before the decision was made to colonize.  They came to see what treasures the new land held.  Even bringing some of the natives back to England to meet the queen.  So, they weren’t the first people in the US, but they were pretty darn close!  It’s also interesting to learn the huge differences between some of my ancestors.  Some of them were actually from wealthy families and descended from both Irish and English nobility.  Others, however, were as poor as poor can be and traveled to the United States to achieve the all-too-familiar “American Dream,” and I suppose they did.  They survived and thrived here, which would not have happened had they chose to stay in their homelands.

So, thanks again everyone for your support!  If ever you have a topic you’d like me to write about, feel free to message me or leave it in the comments!  Also, be sure to check me out on twitter!  I’m there more frequently than I am here!  Click the follow button on the right side of this screen!

Anyone Been Wondering What Happened to Me?

Probably not many, as many of my blog followers are also my twitter friends, Facebook friends, and mostly my Tumblr crew, but just in case you are just one of my honest-to-goodness blog followers who doesn’t fall into any of those other categories, I’ll attempt to get you up-to-speed on what’s been happening in the world of Brittany. The good and the bad!

First of all, a very exciting thing happened.  I am typing this very blog post from my brand new Acer Aspire computer.  My former computer, “Old Faithful,” my good ol’ Toshiba satellite computer, finally bit the dust.  I will admit, I was devastated.  That computer stocked full of copies of my articles and other stories, as well as thousands of photos from my Barbara Stanwyck and Carol Burnett photo collections, and a rather substantial collection of gifs I’ve made over the past couple of years.  I’m hoping the computer isn’t too far gone to prevent me from saving these items.  Most, if not all, of my gifs are also on Tumblr, retrieving them will be a challenge but doable  Anyway, the old Toshiba died on Monday.  Then on Tuesday I got a weird email notifying me that I had a package on the way via FedEx.  I hadn’t ordered anything, so I had no idea what it could be.  All I knew was that it was being shipped from Allen, Texas and that the package weighed 9 pounds.  After a little investigation, I finally found an email in my junk folder notifying I was one of five winners of a new computer for  an article contest I had entered quite a while ago. I had forgotten all about it!  Then literally the day after my computer died, I got word I was getting a brand new one, FREE!  This computer is great, has tons of storage space, and is a lovely silver color!  There are only a few things I’m having to get used to:  the keyboard.  The keys are spaced further apart than I’m accustomed to, significantly slowing my typing speed, but I know I’ll get used to it and improve…not to mention how much easier it’ll be to keep clean! It also has Windows 8.  I’m all about having the latest and greatest in software and operating systems, but I have to admit I am not a supporter or fan of Windows 8.  I’m getting more used to it, but I still don’t care much for it.  But hey beggars can’t be choosers!

Then Thursday I had a follow-up appointment with my doctor about my back injury obtained over a month ago at work.  Most know, but in case you don’t , I had to resign from my job at the end of April.  I was forced to after the injury because I was no longer able to shoulder the workload required as part of my job description.  Since my injury I’ve been seeing a spine specialist and I’ve had several tests and even an MRI to try to determine the best plan of action.  The MRI showed some of my lumbar discs were damaged, but not herniated.  Basically the scan was not great but didn’t show much.  All we had to go on was the MRI scan and the pain and other symptoms I had.  I had severe back and leg pain, leg weakness, and even fell three times due to my leg completely going numb without explanation.  My doctor and I were both puzzled because my MRI didn’t reveal any damage that should cause the symptoms I was having.  We both knew I had degenerative disc disease (hereditary) so we figured maybe my disease was making more the injury more painful and symptomatic than it would have been for the ordinary person.    My doctor decided that perhaps epidural steroid injections would be the best way to treat the swelling, and thus the pain, I was feeling.  And that was the beginning of the crazy roller-coaster I’ve been on the last month!

I was scheduled to have three steroid injections–injected via epidural (not fun AT ALL)–to be given in two week increments.  I was scheduled to see my spine doctor again after the injections to see if they had done any good.  Nope!  If anything, my back got worse as a result of the injections.  So Thursday I went back to the spine doctor for my follow-up.  Wednesday evening, the night before I was supposed to see the doctor again, I felt very uneasy. I had a bad feeling about the visit the next day and almost didn’t even want to go.  Of course, I was forced to go by my family.

So my doctor came in, asked me how my steroid injections had been helping, and could see immediately by the look on my face they hadn’t helped at all.  This concerned her, so she did another neurological exam to see if my injury was any worse.  It was.  I had practically lost the reflexes in both my legs and the doctor decided the only thing left to do was to do a sort of exploratory surgery, hopefully revealing the full extent of the problem and offering her a way to decompress the nerves in my spine causing the problems.  Due to losing the reflexes in my legs so rapidly and the fact that I had been falling, she wanted to do the surgery as soon as possible.  I was scheduled for the very next day, Friday.  I had the surgery and have been in a sort of fog since then from all the drugs and anesthesia.

Anyway, the surgery revealed the damage to its full extent.  I had actually broken a piece off one of my lumbar vertebrae and that piece of bone had been bouncing around in there messing things up.  It had also left me with a small fracture in the actual vertebrae as well.  That alone could be causing the pain.  It wasn’t all the surgeon found though, the nerves were so aggravated by the broken piece of bone that they were red and swollen where they exit the spine.  Some of them were crushed flat.  Anyway, this all explained the problems I had been having, but the doctor was puzzled as to why none of this had shown up on my MRI!  The only explanation was that the swelling could have impeded the view and prevented the scan from being accurate.

Either way, it was almost miraculous I was able to have my surgery so quickly.  Left untreated, I could have suffered permanent nerve damage, and even paralysis from the extent of my injuries.  The doctor was amazed I was still able to walk at all!  I was dead-set against surgery of any kind. I’ve had five surgeries in my lifetime (now six) and I did NOT want to go through another one.  But it’s amazing how much better I am already after the surgery.  The pain in my legs is gone completely and the strength in my legs is rapidly improving.  Honestly, the only problem I am experiencing now is the horrendous postoperative pain, which is to be expected!  It isn’t fun, I am in excruciating pain from the incision and swelling and all the nerve manipulation and bruising..  That will all go away in a few weeks though, and by then I should be back to normal!

The timing has all been so amazing.  An opening in the doctor’s surgical schedule, and it happened before I had accepted a new job, as I have been applying for them like crazy since resigning from my job!  Since resigning, I’ve been writing–what I’d like to do full time eventually–but applying for jobs to pay the bills in the insurance field that will pay will and still put my nursing degree to work.

I’m sure it’s hard to tell from reading this that I am a freelance writer and aspiring memoirist and novelist, but it’s true!  I’m just still full of anesthesia and pain medications that have left my brain a foggy pile of mush!!! What I’ve written makes perfect sense to me, but I’m sure it very well may be senseless to the average reader!  Bottom line:  I’ve had surgery, I’m healing up, and I’m getting better by the day.   Just looking forward to the day I feel back to my old self again.  I HATE this drugged up feeling for sure!

Hope everyone is enjoying their long weekend and that you all have a wonderful Memorial day!  Spend it with the ones you love and be sure to remember the real reason for this holiday.  Honor those who have died in service to our country or those who served our country, lived to return home and have since died.

Slacking On The Job

I’m not slacking on my writing I promise!  In fact, I’ve been writing up a storm.  Since resigning from my nursing job, I’ve began writing for various websites and magazines.  I am now an official contributor to NurseTogether.com, Scrubs Magazine, and Yahoo and their partner sites.  Since resigning, I’ve had 15 articles published either online or in print.  I’ve earned money, won awards, won contests, and even been interviewed and profiled.  I’m still currently searching for a job that will meet my non-lifting restriction, but I have applied to several and I’m confident I’ll be offered the job that’s right for me.

My goal is to get a job that pays the bills while still allowing me to write in my spare time.  Eventually I hope to publish more and more articles and eventually even a book.  I hope to eventually transition from nurse to writer who happens to also be a nurse!  I will continue to write here on my blog, but sadly my posts will be a little fewer and further between.  Here’s where you can catch some of my other writing endeavors:


Nurse Together

Scrubs Magazine


Back Among The Living

I’m happy to report I’m coming out of the reclusive phase I have been in lately.  Many of my readers, followers, and friends may have noticed I’ve been MIA from most of my social websites.  I haven’t tweeted, updated my facebook status, or live blogged on tumblr in a while.  Then there’s this blog, which I have also neglected lately.  I did update on Friday, April 26, but it was a very brief post informing everyone I’m starting a modest graphic design business.  It’s goal is mainly to cater to either small businesses or people who are self-employed to help them create logos, letterheads, and other necessary business items that would help promote their company.  I also cater to people who don’t have much money but have graphic design needs.  For example, a friend of mine just had a baby.  She wants to send out birth announcements, but to order those from a big company would cost a pretty hefty chunk of change.  That’s where I come in. I can create a lovely birth announcement, take it and have it printed and deliver to her.  My charge is for the printing fee and a small fee for creating the announcement. And believe me, my fee is minuscule compared to ordering them from a large company.

What I didn’t mention in my brief post/business plug on Friday was that I resigned from my job.  I went to the doctor on Thursday to find out the results of my MRI.  The results were not good.  I have serious problems in my lower back and, at least at this time, the doctor wants to pursue other alternatives before resorting to surgery.  I was all for that decision as the last back surgery I had was a nightmare.  I can’t even begin to describe how awful that was.  The only thing good about it was the IV morphine every 4 hours while I was in the hospital.  Unlike most people who sleep when they are given narcotic pain relievers, they have the reverse effect on me, making me almost hyper.  I’m also very happy and extremely chatty!  Other than that, though, that was one of the top ten worst experiences of my life.  So the first treatment we are pursuing are epidural steroid injections.  Yes, epidural like women get when they’re in labor.  Just a different medication is being injected.  Instead of injecting my spine with a medication that would numb me from the point of injection down, I am getting a cocktail of medications (mainly steroids) injected with the goal of reducing some of the inflammation which is causing so much of my pain.  This treatment gives me only a 50-60% chance of pain relief, but we are trying it.  My first treatment was Wednesday May 1.  I am still in excruciating pain from that, more pain than I was in before!  I was told, however, that this is a normal occurrence and it will get better once the medication has time to dissipate and spread throughout my spinal canal.  So anyway, enough with the gross stuff…

I’m happy to announce that an article I wrote is being featured on a nursing website.  It will be published tomorrow.  I’m pretty proud of that.  🙂  I also just became a content contributor (freelance writer basically) for Yahoo.  Basically what that entails is, I can accept assignments offered to me based on a profile I had to fill out, or I can write articles of my own and on the topic of my choice.  I have written one article already but it is still being reviewed by the editors.  I wrote it before I started taking the courses they offer to ensure you enter quality content and you enter it in the format they want.  The wonderful thing about this is, you are paid for it!  Modest amounts, by no means enough to support yourself, but any means of getting extra money is always a plus.  They pay you up front a small amount (anywhere from $5 to 25$) and you then receive payments for every 1,000 views of each of your articles which goes on as long as the article is online–which is usually forever.  So I’ve been working hard to complete the courses so I can start writing more articles that they will accept and start making some money.  It’s really neat and I’m looking forward to writing for them.  These articles you write are featured on one or several of Yahoo’s secondary sites like Yahoo Shine, OMG, Yahoo Voices, Yahoo Movies, etc.  Since I’m out of work now, at least for the next month, I’m happy to have this to do in my free time.

Hope everyone is doing well, I will be updating here as much as possible.  Hope you all have a fantastic weekend.

Dallas Trip…and Life Update

First of all, an update on what’s happening in my life right now.  Things are still a little confusing at the moment.  I can’t see a surgeon until April 18, so until then I get to live in fear and worry.  Everything hangs in the balance until I meet the surgeon and find out what, if anything, is going to be done to my back.  One thing I do know, regardless of if I have surgery or not, I will have to leave patient care.  My back can no longer withstand the strain nursing puts on it.  No matter what, any job that requires patient care will eventually require the nurse to lift, push, pull, or twist SOMETHING heavier than him-or herself.  I can no longer take the risk of performing one of these tasks and destroying my back forever.  I may already have destroyed it, but if I don’t stop putting myself at risk, it will happen for sure.

My boss is going to keep me on for the time being.  I will only be able to work in pre-op.  Starting IVs and charting are all I can do.  I will also do any computer/secretarial work needed to help fill the rest of the time.  How long they will keep me being limited to only pre-op remains to be seen.  My boss doesn’t want to get rid of me, but the ultimate decision lies with the CEO.  He may end up wanting to get rid of me and hire someone who is capable of doing anything and everything…as I ONCE was capable of doing.

Since I am in no way, shape, or form interested in nursing if I can’t be taking care of patients directly, I’ve been looking into online degree programs for writing, graphic design, and photography.  They all seem very appealing.  I haven’t decided on one yet, it will all depend on funding (I’m working to acquire a grant).  One thing is certain, I will be getting a second bachelor’s degree in one of these three areas.  After that I will start a new career, quite possibly doing so in the big city of Dallas, Texas, where more opportunities await.  Which brings me to the trip I just returned from…Dallas was nice, as always.  Had some lovely food, fantastic time visiting with family, saw my aunt’s new home–which is fabulous–and was given some mementos of my beloved Uncle Mac.  It was very hard visiting this time, because practically everything in my aunt’s house that reminds you of Mac was gone.  Either taken down and packed, or given away to family and friends.  My aunt has kept the few things that meant the most to her, the rest of his things she is in the process of giving away to those who loved Mac, to cherish them along with his memory.  I was given some of his music, one of his treasured LSU game footballs, and some pictures of him and my cousin–his son–who sadly passed away when he was 15, back in 1992.  Here are some photos of the trip:

Welcome to Texas, y'all!
Welcome to Texas, y’all!
Driving through Dallas...
Driving through Dallas…
Dallas looks very different from Little Rock!!
Dallas looks very different from Little Rock!!
100+ year old cactus located near my aunt's present home.
100+ year old cactus located near my aunt’s present home.
The most incredible lemon bar I've ever eaten. Had about half an inch deep layer of powdered sugar on top! I love Dallas dining!
The most incredible lemon bar I’ve ever eaten. Had about half an inch deep layer of powdered sugar on top! I love Dallas dining!
Phenomenal steak at Saltgrass Texas Steakhouse.
Phenomenal steak at Saltgrass Texas Steakhouse.
Katie, Kyle, Michael, and me again.
Katie, Kyle, Michael, and me again.
Cousin Katie, me (in blue), cousin Michael (who died in 1992) and cousin Kyle.
Cousin Katie, me (in blue), cousin Michael (who died in 1992) and cousin Kyle.
My late cousin Michael holding my cousin Kyle...Kyle is 26 now!
My late cousin Michael holding my cousin Kyle…Kyle is 26 now!
I was given some pictures of my beloved Uncle Mac who recently passed away. Here he is about to do something he loved best: driving fast.
I was given some pictures of my beloved Uncle Mac who recently passed away. Here he is about to do something he loved best: driving fast.
The church is beautiful. Happy Easter!
The church is beautiful. Happy Easter!
Iced Sweet Tea-A Southern Staple!
Iced Sweet Tea-A Southern Staple!
Pina Coladas were glorious.
Pina Coladas were glorious.
My cousin Taylor and his lovely wife Grace, at their combined birthday celebration.
My cousin Taylor and his lovely wife Grace, at their combined birthday celebration.
The view from my aunt's new townhouse. The pool belongs to the neighbors, whom I hope she becomes good friends with!
The view from my aunt’s new townhouse. The pool belongs to the neighbors, whom I hope she becomes good friends

Life Can Throw You A Curve! But You MUST KEEP GOING!

Well, I had intended on making this post my big review of the latest four books in Martha Long’s “Ma,” series…and I will be posting that tomorrow.  I have have been putting a lot of thought into it, and though I have notes, I have decided to write it on the five hour journey back to Little Rock from Dallas.  It will give me something to do on that long, exhausting ride.  Tonight, I am far too exhausted to put the amount of effort into the post that it deserves, and it would end up a poor excuse for the rave review I have in store.  I will say this, in her usual fashion, Martha Long has again not failed to amaze me.  She is a woman of great courage and strength and will always hold my utmost respect.  Her series has blown me away, and I’m devastated I have to wait until September to read the final chapter of her amazing, harrowing life saga.  Anyway, if I don’t stop myself now I’ll go on and on about how wonderful she is and how amazing her books are.  No.  All that for another day.  Tomorrow, to be exact, so be ready.

Tonight I have decided to share something that is lying heavily on my heart.  Something that I don’t want to talk about, don’t want to even think about…but I am an adult faced with the ultimate dilemma and sadness.  As an adult and a realist, I must face this seemingly hopeless situation head-on.  I have been given news today that, at first, I thought would destroy me.  My very spirit.  Never in my life have I been so devastated or destroyed inside.  Depressed doesn’t begin to describe how I have felt the majority of this day.  Thank God, however, I have the love and support of an amazing mom, dad, and aunt who have helped me see my life is not over, in fact I should look at this situation as a new beginning, a way to start over.  I also have the amazing life of Martha Long to look to, as she has revealed so much about her never-give-up spirit in her incredible books.  I have also been given the unimaginable gift of friendship of one of the kindest-hearted, warmest, loveliest women in the world.  Without the miracle of technology we would never have known the other existed, but thankfully–through the mutual admiration of Martha Long and the incredible social site that is twitter–I was introduced to a lovely lady named Carolyn.  She is a beautiful person inside and out, and although we live 4,200 miles apart (and yes I calculated it), she has become one of my nearest and dearest friends.  Her family as well, her daughter is an amazing human being with a huge heart…and 3 of the most adorable grandchildren ever.  Carolyn has seen me through some very difficult times in my life, willing to talk to me on the phone at all hours of the day or night for as long as I needed, to help cheer me up.  Then she will talk to me when I’m perfectly happy and content! My emotions have been a roller-coaster lately, and through it all Carolyn has been there for me, even being so far away.  I am so very grateful for technology and so blessed to be born in a time when it is available.  Thank you Carolyn, for you kindness, concern, and above all, your friendship.  You’re a treasure and I now consider you and your wonderful family a part of my own.  And thank you Martha, for sharing your story, giving me something to cling to, a hope I would not have found otherwise.  Two amazing Irish women who have made my life better simply by being themselves.  I am grateful to you both.

As I said, my emotions–my life–has been a roller coaster ride I would rather not have taken.  I’ve been through it all…illness, hateful people putting me down, loss of some of my dearest loved ones, all of which have broken my heart beyond anything I had felt up to that point.  At this very moment I’m in Dallas, Texas visiting my aunt whom I just mentioned and whom I love dearly for being a compassionate voice of reason in my life.  It has been a very difficult trip for me.  First of all, coming into this house, which she is preparing to move out of, and seeing it completely transformed.  Everything belonging to my uncle has all but vanished.  I don’t feel his presence here like I did before.  I understand why she is doing this.  Giving his things away to those who loved him most.  She has kept the things that mean the most to her and has given the rest away to his children and friends to treasure forever.  I received a memento today of my beloved uncle Mac, which I will treasure forever and display proudly in my home.  It’s such a shame that sometimes you don’t realize how very special someone is to you until you lose them.  I adored that man.  He was so very, very dear to me.  My uncle and my friend.  Next to my daddy, one of the few men in my life to ever show me unconditional love.  Something he showed to everyone he knew well.  He was an amazing individual and the world is a less happy place without him in it.  I have nothing left now but his memory to keep him alive, and I will remember him and cherish his memory until the day I die.  Mac McCuistion, you were a beautiful human being.  May your spirit live on in all of us who knew and loved you best.

Now, as I sit here crying thinking about this, I will share another bit of news I learned today that hit me like a ton of bricks.  I injured my back a few days ago at work, while trying to lift a large patient.  I was attempting to help turn him from his side to his back, and inadvertently was not given much help in the process–leaving the majority of the strain on me flipping this man over.  As soon as I gave it all my strength, I felt an all-too-familiar pop in my back.  It terrified me, I knew I had really done it. I felt the pain shoot down my spine and left leg immediately.  I chose, however, to ignore it and continue on with my job.  I’ve had surgery once for a back injury and it was without a doubt one of the worst experiences of my life to that time.  It took ages for me to return to my old self physically.  Now, feeling fit and fine, doing well and almost always pain-free, I was happy and doing well in my new job.  The thought of repeating this horrible incident horrified me beyond belief.  Ignoring it eventually made me forget about it, and the pain–although still ever-present–eased to the point I was able to continue my work day.

As the days went on, however, the pain worsened…and worsened.  Each day the pain would get worse, and although I didn’t want to face it, I knew it was not a good situation brewing.  I still chose to ignore it and not have it seen about, although I did make my boss and a couple co-workers aware of what was going on.  I continued to work as usual, still pulling machines, pushing stretchers, and still positioning patients twice the size of my five-foot-nothing self.  I’m not an athletic, skinny person, but I am tiny nonetheless.  All this physical labor on my small frame was not doing my paining back any favors.  Well, the injury occured on Tuesday and by Thursday I was in agony.  The pain got so bad at one point I felt myself getting sweaty, weak, and nauseated.  I somehow managed to finish the case we were working on, but once we finished I had to immediately excuse myself to the bathroom, where I got sick and promptly passed out smacking my head on the sink…leaving a lovely knot and bruise as evidence.  I had to leave work early because the rest of the day I was completely worthless.  I slept most of the day.  My boss asked me if I was coming to work Friday, and knowing we were swamped that day, I said I would.  If I had declined, she would have been very gracious about it, but my naturally guilty spirit and helpless need to do whatever I can whenever I can to help people in need, I just couldn’t turn her down.  So I went to work with the stipulation that I was leaving early.  I would finish my cases, help get cleaned up, then I was leaving.  My parents were picking me up and we were leaving straight for Dallas.  I slept most of that ride and that’s when the trouble started.

When we arrived, the pain in my back and leg was almost unbearable.  It was all I could do to haul myself up the spiral staircase to the second floor where my bedroom is at my aunts house.  I ended up going to bed very early but barely slept a wink.  No matter what I did, I could not get comfortable.  No position helped.  I was in agony.  The pain and the worry kept me up most of the night.  I finally did doze off around 5 a.m. but was awake by 7 a.m.  When I woke up I knew it was bad.  I couldn’t feel the back of my left leg and the bottom of my left foot.  Totally numb.  My back felt like someone had a knife stuck in it, a hot knife, which they were slowly twisting causing me as much pain as possible.  I finally got myself up and went to the restroom and discovered it was virtually impossible for me to use the bathroom.  I couldn’t go! I know that is too much information but it is to be explained soon.  I then hobbled myself into my parents’ room and told them I had to be seen by a doctor.  Something was wrong and I had the instinct and very bad feeling that something was really, really wrong.

Dad got himself ready…I did nothing but comb my hair and brush my teeth.  I didn’t have the energy or strength to even bathe myself.  Something that is absolutely unheard of for me.  I DO NOT leave the house unbathed or without at least a little makeup.  Not today.  I didn’t give a dang how I looked, I just wanted to feel better.  My parents knew it was serious when I insisted on going to the doctor, knowing I avoid that at all costs, regardless of the consequences to myself.  Here in Dallas they have these lovely institutions.  They are Emergency Rooms, ERs…or A&E whatever you call them in Europe…but they are free-standing.  Not attached to a hospital, virutally eliminating the ungodly wait times and all the riff-raff that comes through. I was there by 8 a.m. filling out paperwork.  I was in a room by 8:15.  Seen by a doctor by 8:30, who immediately ordered an X-Ray.  I was then brought back to my room where I waited for a good thirty minutes, nervous as a cat.  I was not looking forward to the doctor’s report.

The doctor returned and the look on his face said it all.  I knew it was bad.  He told me “I’m not going to mince words with you. I know you are a nurse, and I’m going to give it to you straight.  Your lumbar spine is destroyed.  Every disc you have in your lumbar spine is damaged.  Bulging out from between the vertebrae putting pressure on your nerves.  There is one of particular concern which is nearly flattening the nerve.  Only having an X-Ray machine I can’t see for sure, but I believe it is herniated and the disc contents are damaging the nerve.  That is what is causing the numbness, difficulty walking, and difficulty using the restroom.  I’m going to send you over to Parkland and have you meet with a neurosurgeon there today…”  My eyes must have been as big as saucers.  “Whoa there, whoa…I don’t live here Doctor. I’m from Little Rock.  I really would prefer to be at home when I have this seen about.” I replied.  “Oh, I didn’t realize you weren’t local.  Well you ABSOLUTELY cannot work right now.  I’m going to give you a note explaining this to give your employer.  I don’t want you moving anything, touching patients…I don’t want you so much as bending over.  Get someone else to pick things up for you if you drop it.”  I just sat staring at him, shock obviously showing in my face.  I knew it would be bad news, but I had no idea how bad.  He continued, “I can’t recommend any surgeons in Little Rock as I don’t know any, but I want you to get in to see one as soon as possible.  If your insurance requires it, just call here and I will fax them a referral when you find the one you want.  Do not delay, the longer you let this go the more damage will occur.  Right now, if you get this taken care of quickly, you have a very good chance of the nerve damage repairing nicely…probably not completely, but enough to where it won’t cause you much trouble.  But if you let this go, Brittany, you could permanently lose the feeling in your leg and your continence.”  Dear God.  I sat there in awe at what he was telling me.

“I’m no neurosurgeon, I’m an emergency doctor.  There is always the hope that maybe you can find a good surgeon who will know a way around it and you won’t need an operation.  Perhaps the disc is just badly bulging and not herniated and you can have therapy and things like that to avoid it.  Again, though, I’m going to be straight with you.  You may avoid it now, but if you continue your nursing career, caring for patients in a way that requires any physical strain on your part, you are only delaying the inevitable.  You will need surgery eventually, and the longer you wait and the worse it gets, you are facing a spinal fusion…you do not want that. And you may still need that in the future.  It is just so sad that one so young as you is facing this.  I don’t want to, but I feel it is my responsibility to be blunt with you, knowing your knowledge of medicine.  I don’t know how else to say it other than your career as a patient care nurse is over.  You are going to have to find something else to do with your life.  You’re young, and there are many other jobs in the medical profession you would be great at.  Granted most nurses are not interested in those jobs at your age, because you become nurses to help people.  To interact and have that hands-on experience.  I hate to break the news to you that you are going to lose that so soon.  The truth is the truth though.  And I don’t want to see someone like you, with so many years ahead of you and so much intelligence and so much to offer, ruin your life by ignoring this advice. I’m so very, very sorry.”  I sat there for a moment, staring past him at the wall, the burst into tears.  My body heaved with sobs.  I felt like the very life had been sucked out of me.  In one visit to the ER, my whole life had changed.  I cried mercilessly, unable to stop.  The poor doctor, as kind as he was, was clueless on how to comfort me.  All the nurses were men, the other doctors were men, there were no women or men available who knew how to deal with a severely upset person sobbing like a child in the exam room.  He kept telling me how sorry he was, patting my back, offering me tissues, looking totally helpless.  I finally managed to pull myself together.  I stopped sobbing, just sitting there sniffing and heaving, finally able to talk, though stuttering through my stifled tears.

So there it is.  My days as a registered nurse in the operating room are over.  I am out of work.  I am not fired from my job or anything, not yet anyway.  I will be leaving Dallas tomorrow and Monday will be meeting with my boss, and hopefully, the CEO of the clinic to discuss my future with the company–if there is a future there for me.  I have worked very, very hard making myself indispensable to my boss, showing my other skills beyond those of nursing.  My secretarial skills, typing skills, and computer skills.  I am hoping SOMEHOW these will be enough to find a place for me in our clinic office, something to temporarily support me where I don’t have to leave the company and while I’m able to decide what I am going to do with the rest of my life.  After talking with my family, I have made a tentative decision that rides on my ability to find non-physical work to sustain me while I carry out the plan.  I will probably have to go on disability, meaning I can work but can only make a certain amount per week, while being supplemented by the disability funds.  I am confident I would be able to obtain a grant or scholarship to take college courses, or even possibly online college courses, to complete another degree.  Something totally different.  I have decided to leave nursing entirely.  I love being a nurse, but if I can’t work one-on-one with patients I will spend the remainder of my working days depressed at sitting behind a desk working on patient cases without ever seeing the patient I am working with.  I have decided I will try to obtain a second degree, this time using my more artistic side.  I have narrowed it down to three choices.  Three things I do very,very often on my own time…on the side of my nursing job, honing my skills because I enjoy it so much.  I would like to earn a degree in either photography, graphic design, or English literature and writing.  The only other things I am passionate about besides nursing…with the exception of reading and learning about fascinating people and educating myself in all things Old Hollywood.  I doubt I could make a living doing those things though!

So that is where my life stands now.  A tentative plan riding very heavily on the unknown.  It feels better to have some kind of plan, but at the same time my stomach is in knots with the worry about what I will do if any one of these elements falls through.  I know with the help of God and my family, I will get through this seemingly insurmountable obstacle thrown my way.  I’m nothing if not persistent!  In the words of Martha Long, “life can be a bowl of cherries!” I just have to get out there, take a risk and make it happen.  At the suggestion of my aunt I may possibly move to Dallas, Texas to start my new life and career.  There are infinitely more possibilities for me in Dallas than there are in Little Rock.  Although my mom and dad were not keen on the idea of their little (29 year old!) girl moving away from them, they eventually agreed my aunt was right.  She has offered me a place to live with her until I find a place of my own and get on my feet.  The timing of this big move is still up in the air, though.

That may have been way more information than any of my readers cared to read, but it is weighing so heavily on my heart that if I didn’t get it down in writing I may very well have lost my mind.  I had to write it down.  Get it all out.  Have a means of coming back to read it and see what I have decided to do.  I have a plan–unstable, yet doable.  I will make it.  And who knows, I may look back on this and see this horrible occurrence as simply a blessing in disguise.

To my faithful readers, my family, and my dear and wonderful friends who are so good to me in my seemingly many times of need, you have my undying gratitude.  Thanks for offering your kind words, your advice, and your shoulders to cry on.  Without you all I would not be able to face this.  My love to you all.