Today I have found myself with some really mixed emotions. I’m extremely emotional because tomorrow is the last surgical procedure that will be done on my back after a series of procedures the last year. I had this procedure done on my left side and after the couple weeks of incredible pain during the recovery period, I woke up one day and after almost 3 years of chronic pain, my left side of my back just didn’t hurt! My leg was not cramped, as it had been for a little over a year. I had tears in my eyes when I got out of bed and didn’t wince with pain. I couldn’t believe it. It was like a miracle cure.
Lets back up a little bit though. When my awesome pain management doctor mentioned “ablation” (the burning of the nerve endings in the inflammed joints in the back) I was terrified and it was an immediate HELL NO! Was he actually serious? Burning off nerve endings in my spine?! I made it clear that I would not even consider it. That was my first visit after I had just had what was supposed to be an outpatient “standard” microdiscectomy and it was in fact, NOT a “standard” procedure. My herniated disc had sneakily wrapped itself around my nerve and was beginning to suffocate it. If the disc was not removed, there could have been some permanent nerve damage in my left leg. This little tid bit of info was not discovered until my surgeons “review of the MRI’s” the previous night and it might be “a little more invasive” than originally thought. A LITTLE??? Well, apparently while I was out cold and in the recovery room, my surgeon came out and told my dad and my then boyfriend who had both accompanied me to the procedure that once they opened me up, it was a lot worse than they thought, but I would still be able to go home that day. No biggie, they just had to make a bigger incision. Now, I was not informed of this until they brought me out of recovery and the nurse assigned to me was trying to get me to stand up. I sat up and yelped at the shooting pain from the weight on my left side on the fresh wound. I held back tears and gulped. I grabbed that nurse’s hands and as he tried to pull me up, I discovered that I could not feel my RIGHT leg!
After repeated requests to page my surgeon or his assistant because I knew there was something drastically wrong. My right leg was never an issue in any of these problems. The assistant was paged and what was supposed to then be “overnight for observation” became 5 days in the hospital before I could walk the required distance and climb the number of stairs required before discharge. Just prior to the surgery it was supposed to be a 6 week recovery period and then off to physical therapy. Well, that stupid disc wrapping itself around my nerve caused a major delay (more like almost 12 weeks) until I began physical therapy. I did the required 3 times a week PT, but thanks to my body being hyperflexible, after about 2 months of PT the pain began to get worse rather than better. At that point, I had 2 options.
#1 Try the physical therapist that works with the Chicago Bulls and other athletes, and perhaps try a technique called “dry needling” (a form of accupuncture.)
#2 Have a few injections in the joints that were the most inflammed and problematic which could provide anywhere from a few weeks to a few months of relief.
I really wasn’t able to make the trek several times a week downtown for PT because of the long drive and my inability to sit so long, so #2 it was. I just wanted SOME relief. I had my surgery in August 2014 and it was now after Christmas and the pain was not getting better. I NEEDED IT to get better. For those that have never had chronic pain, it causes a really, really huge damper on your social life, well, life in general. You are constantly in pain so you can not commit to many things in advance, you can’t stand too long, sit too long, you travel with icepacks in your purse, and saying “my (insert body part with chronic pain here) hurts” or “is acting up today” and a plethora of other complaints that you just start to isolate because you yourself are sick of hearing the same thing, like a broken record, so you can only imagine others feel the same. Along with that isolation comes depression. Now, if you don’t have an already predisposition to depression, you get depressed, but not always completely unfunctional. If you have Bipolar II (more depressive and periodic hypomanic episodes, never full mania) like me, and have already been in the gutter because of a failed marriage and your job and career loss, lets just say you end up in a place so dark that you never, ever think you will see the light of day. Especially after treatment after treatment are failures to provide relief. You literally begin to believe that you will never have a life again. That you will be alone the rest of your life and will never experience another day without physical pain.
Well, I had the doc schedule the injections. I figured why not, what was the worst that could happen? I dont get any relief? But what COULD happen? I might find some relief for a period of time. Sign me up please!
I was scared out of my mind and luckily CJ flew in from California to accompany me to the procedure. They assured me that they would be injecting me with a numbing agent and I wouldn’t feel anything except the initial pinch when they give me the numbing stuff. LIARS!!!! Ok, well it wasn’t exactly pain that I felt, each of the 4 injections felt like someone was pushing about 500 lbs of weight on me with each shot. I had tears in my eyes. I’m not going to lie. I was pretty used to pain by that point too. I had a wisdom tooth removed that fall and i felt no pain during or after. Just swelling, so if it hurt, it must have REALLY hurt. But, the next few days after, I felt relief! But it was quite short lived. The only other treatment left at that point was the ablation (nerve burning). They said they would give me anesthesia so I wouldnt feel it.
I had just spent about a month in California with CJ. My return was only for this procedure and then I would be on my way back. That procedure was the worst pain I had ever felt in my life. They gave me twice the amount of pain medicine they normally give and I still felt everything. Two weeks of extreme pain (picture having a bunch of bruises and the pain you feel if you push on them.) That was what I had on the inside in those joints and on the outside where they poked through to do the burning. I couldn’t sit, stand, lay, oor anything because if it wasnt hurting the outside, it was hhurting on the inside.
But the day I woke up and stood without feeling any pain, I couldn’t believe it. It was the absolute best feeling in the world. I thought that was going to be the end of my pain problems and life would go on.
Since the left side had been so painful for so long, I had been favoring my right side causing those joints to come inflammed and just as painful as the left ones had been. This time however, we knew that the burning was effective on the left and I could either wait a while and see if the joints healed by themselves or I could do the burning on the right side as well.
BURN BABY BURN!!!!!!
to be continued…….