Tuesday, September 20, 2005

2nd Post of the Day - Five Years Ago Today

Five years ago today I woke up without pain for the first time in two months, thanks to a cervical diskectomy and fusion. The amazing part in that first sentence was the part where I said "I woke up…" as for two months I had been completely unable to sleep from the pain. I had just started working for my present company (one month on the job) and I felt bad about it but I would spend the day crying at my desk from the pain and the lack of sleep. I was pretty sure all the people around me thought I was utterly pathetic as I was brand new and knew pretty much nobody.

My new company did not offer health care insurance for the first three months of employment, and since it was summer time I didn't take them up on their offer of being able to pay for it. Thankfully, my neck/arm started hurting before the 30 day window closed and I got in at the last minute. YS has her Bachelors degree in sports medicine/athletic training, so when I described the pain she had a sneaking suspicion of what it was. She asked if I knew anybody at the office who could perform various medical type tasks on me. My cousin's fiancé worked here (he still does, but now he's her husband), so I said I could call him and see if he could help me out. We found a conference room and per YS's instructions I laid on the floor and CF pulled on my head. If the pain went away with the pulling then I had a pinched nerve in my neck. Well, the pain went away when he pulled, but the second he let go the pain was back. But at least we had a clue. I went to a doctor at DMC that evening, Urgent Care, and even though I had my insurance it wasn't in the system yet and I ended up paying $60 for some lame-ass doctor tell me the problem was carpal tunnel and then gave me a prescription for 800 mg of ibuprofen. No matter what I said that was her diagnosis, so I left and drove home crying knowing already from experience that the ibuprofen wasn't going to help and that it wasn't carpal tunnel.

I went over to YS's apartment that night and she pulled on my head saying the entire time, "I suck at necks. I suck at necks." And she'd call her friend who had been in school with her who didn't suck at necks, and again the discussion was that this was NOT carpal tunnel. YS gave me the name of a doctor who she thought would be good. I had been gone for five years and although I liked my old doctor, I decided I didn't want to return to DMC after the Urgent Care experience. Besides my old doctor was a tad old and I wasn't even sure he was still practicing. I called the doctor the next day and couldn't get in with the one recommended but another doctor in the practice was available, so I got an appt. with her. And that was the beginning of my love affair with my doctor – not like that – just a doctor who is so good and caring and takes her time with her patients. She listened to me and performed simple tests (unlike the DMC doctor) and then wrote up prescriptions for Tylenol #3s and X-rays. The X-rays showed nothing and the Tylenol was worthless. Within a couple of weeks my doctor decided I needed Vicodin and an MRI. Of course, I couldn’t get in to the MRI for a month, and although the Vicodin kicked ass, she only gave me one prescription (good for a week) and then was reluctant to give me more until she knew the source of the pain. I understood but that was the only week I got any sleep at all.

One month later I had the MRI done (not the most fabulous of experiences, I must say) and the very next night (9:00 p.m.) my doctor called me with the news. I had a bulging disk and it was touching the spinal cord. Yup, I pretty much freaked the fuck right out. I stayed pretty calm on the phone with the doctor as I took down the name and number of a neurosurgeon she wanted me to contact IMMEDIATELY (well, the next day) for an appt. ASAP. I remember calling my friend Paula in tears and she's so sensible she calmed me down, so that when Mom called (she was in CA visiting her sisters and to go to the jazz festival) I was calm and didn't freak Mom out (Mom freaks out easily, so it's best not to contribute to the freaking).

The next day I called the neurosurgeon's office and he was booked solid for a week and then going away for a month. There was no way I could get in. Yup, cue more tears. I got in touch with my doctor and she took over. Within a few hours she called me back with the name of the first neurosurgeon's partner and he was willing to see me on Tuesday. (Timeline: MRI on Wednesday, Freakout from Phone Call on Thursday, Friday get appt. with the best neurosurgeon in the history of the world, Monday – Labor Day, Tuesday – appt.) Oh yeah, the doctor had also recommended the Pain Clinic to deal with the pain, so I had an appt. for that the Wednesday morning after my appt. with the neurosurgeon.

Best Neurosurgeon in the History of the World (BNHW) spent so much time with me in his office (I think YS went with me, or maybe not…I don't remember being alone, but can't figure out who was with me, maybe I was alone, but I had my list of questions from YS) answering all of my questions, showing me exactly what the problem was on the MRI films, etc. By the end of the appt., I was ready to have the surgery right then and there, and blow off the Pain Clinic appt., but he wouldn't tell me I could as I think it would have been viewed as a conflict of interest.

I ended up going to the Pain Clinic appointment which was supposedly the first appt. of the day at 7:00 a.m. I don’t know about you, but to me the first appointment of the day should not be called in 20 minutes late!!! WTF is up with that??? I was stressed enough as it was and there I had to wait and be even later to work. They finally call me in and explain that the gist of pain clinic is to give you a shot into the spine. I sat there listening to them explain what they do and cried the entire time. They looked at my films and claimed that many people had the surgery but still needed the pain clinic so why don't I just forgo the surgery and go with the pain clinic and I cried. I cried while I drove to work and cried sitting at my desk. As you can tell, I was pretty much at the end of my rope by this time.

I called my doctor crying and instead of letting me talk to her, the stupid receptionist (she's gone now, I think, thank heavens) insist I make an appt., so while in major pain and at the end of my rope I had to drive out to Novi (not a fun drive at rush hour, let me tell you). YS met me over there and the agreement was that I needed surgery not pain clinic - which was music to my ears, let me tell you. For some reason the thought of someone cutting my neck open, shoving aside my esophagus and trachea to remove a disk from my spinal column and replace it with cadaveric bone and then attach a titanium plate to the two vertebraes sounded like a much better option than sticking a needle into my spine. My doctor didn't charge me for the visit and I went home and called the BNHW and made the appt. for my surgery within two weeks and because I'm a thoughtful daughter, for my mother's b-day.

The Monday of my surgery I was at the hospital in plenty of time even though Mom drove me (Mom is notoriously late for everything), but I planned for the Mom Factor. My surgery was scheduled for 1:00 and it was supposed to last two hours (if I remember correctly) and I would go home that evening. Yup, neck surgery is out-patient surgery these days, kids.

That's not exactly how it worked out though. The BNHW was running late (no big deal, in my book, take your time with all your patients, not just me) and then when I was supposed to go in an emergency came in and needed the operating room. It was 10:00 p.m. before I was wheeled into the OR and they gave me the drugs to knock me and asked me to count backwards from 100 – I might have gotten to 97.

The next thing I knew I was in Recovery and pain-free and tear-free for the first time in two months. Mom and YS were there waiting for me and YS was quite jealous that I was not sick from the anesthetic because it makes her puke. Since it was so late they kept me overnight, and the next day when I got to go home I teased my roommate (who had been told that she had stay another day at least) that I got to put on my underwear. She was exceptionally jealous. And happily that was my biggest gripe about being in the hospital – why do they take your underwear?? I even asked the nurse why I couldn't wear my undies. Her answer? "So, you don't lose them. We can't be responsible in the operating room." HUH? Now, I don’t know about you guys, but I have never had my underwear fall off willy-nilly – much less when I'm lying down not moving while under anesthetic. I said, "He's operating on my NECK, how would I lose my underwear?" Yeah, there was no answer to that. And I could tell by the way my gown was done up after the surgery that they just ripped that puppy wide open and very haphazardly put it back together - it was like they were one button off. I realise that doctors and nurses and orderlies see naked people all the time, but I don't care. I still think I should have been able to keep my undies on.

When I was walking out of the hospital that morning looking like death warmed over in my neck brace and hair every which way, YS offered me her baseball cap to cover the rat's nest that was my hair. I was walking past a male patient at the time and said to her, "I don't care." And he gave me a verbal High Five on walking proudly out of the hospital while looking like hell. It was such a relief to be going home.

2 Comments:

At Tuesday, 20 September, 2005, Anonymous Clarity. said...

I'm much more excited about your package, This afternoon we borrowed the car at 4:30 and drove to the post office. It was closed. I was so pissed off. It closes at 3 on Tuesdays and Friday's. FOR NO REASON, but 6 pm every other day of the week. WTF. The anticipation is killing me. Eric and I are always talking about it. You would laugh if you overheard our conversation. We call it "The Quest for the Package".

Eric thinks you're amazing! He said th

I have more to say, but I have to sign off because the laptop battery is dying and I left the plug in the office. I'll write again tomorrow.

Love, Clarity

 
At Thursday, 22 September, 2005, Blogger trinamick said...

That sounds like a horrible experience. I have carpal tunnel, but I don't have insurance, so I'm waiting for some miracle before I go to the doctor. I'm with you - lack of sleep is miserable!

 

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