Baby Got Back (Problems)

Christmas and New Years have come and gone, and with them a *very* small lineup of handmade gifts and items for myself.

For the first time in a while, Handmade Christmas was a bit sparse. Between closing on the house and trying to move from my home of 25 years, starting a new job, and officiating a wedding, I just plain ran out of time.

There were a few things: a hat for Jay, a shirt for Robert with French cuffs (so he can finally use the cuff links I got him three years ago), a scarf for Robert’s stepmother, some waxed food wraps for his thrifty dad, a knit cowl for Maggie (my first attempt at colorwork!), and since Christmas camel pajama pants for my friend David. My brother, oldest nephew and brother in law all got the promise of a shirt (I needed measurements and color and style input), and Mom got a quilt top (soon to be finished on the machine).

Of course, all of my plans to make those unfinished items went out the window with the arrival of some unwelcome and unwanted health issues.

I awoke on the first day of my post-New Years time off to learn my sister had a stroke.

The doctors like to classify it as “a little stroke,” but really, who are we kidding? Even a “little” stroke is serious. She was extremely lucky that my brother-in-law is proactive about going to the hospital when something is wrong, so they got her attention in pretty fast order. It still took most of a day and a whole barrage of tests to confirm that she did indeed have a stroke, but they started treating her for those symptoms fairly early. That’s important with stroke patients – the sooner you get treatment, the more likely it is they can reverse the worst affects.

Stroke – Act FAST!

There’s nothing wrong with her thought processes and comprehension, though she sounds more deliberate with her words when she talks. She said she remembers thinking “I need to go to the hospital” when it happened, but she couldn’t say the words. The stroke affected the left side of her brain, which impacts the language and logic centers, so that’s to be expected.

I will say she is making really good progress so far. She’s already been transferred to the rehab section of the hospital, where she’ll work with physical and speech therapists, to regain the strength in her right side and improve her language use.

Of course, I’ve learned most of this second hand from Mom and my cousins, since I’m not able to be there as much. She’s at the hospital at VCU, in Richmond. I drove down the day of her surgery, and then had to head back that evening for work the next day.

Four hours in the car, plus falling asleep in a bad position in a hospital chair did not sit well with my back and the problems I’ve been having in my hip. Wednesday morning, as I bent to pick up a chair the cats knocked over, I felt a sharp stabbing pain in my back and legs, and nearly fell over.

I’m not stranger to back problems – I’ve had sciatica for years, likely aggravated seven years ago, when gravity and a wet log conspired against me at a river cleanup on the farm (in case you’re wondering, my back did not win that fight). I’ve been seeing a chiropractor in the time since, and usually things turn out fine.

This was not one of those times.

I didn’t feel relief after the visit and in fact, my back and leg continued to worsen over the rest of the week and weekend. When I went back in on Monday, he couldn’t even finish the treatment, it hurt so bad. Over the next few days, I started to notice – in addition to horrible pain in the back/hip/leg – numbness in my left foot. I was, needless to say, concerned.

And so began a week of visits to my primary doctor, a walk in xray, followed by an MRI of my lower back, and finally a visit to a spine and pain specialist. All of this while dealing with excruciating, debilitating pain that often left me crying and moaning, the stress of not being able to see my sister or help my mom with my youngest nephew, trying to get some work done, and fighting with insurance (who both insisted I didn’t need prior authorization for the MRI *and* said authorization was held up because of lack of prior imaging)

That’s right…I needed imaging in order to get imaging. Hence the xray. Of course, it was pretty clear, upon seeing the xray, that the MRI was needed, so they okayed it extremely fast after that.

Notice how the spine is not straight. That’s going to come into play in a moment.

I like to imagining some random insurance person looking at it and going “oh shit…that looks serious!”

I’ve had an MRI before – I’m supposed to get them every other year, as part of a very proactive breast cancer screening process (my docs are very serious, due to my calculated personal risk) – and I’m not generally claustrophobic, but this go-around was admittedly scarier than previous tests. I am not afraid of tight spaces…I am, however, afraid of being buried alive, and this one felt like I was stuck in a coffin. I did my best to meditate throughout the test, and the technician was able to finish it a lot faster.

Verdict: I have arthritis in my lower lumbar, as well as some spinal stenosis (narrowing of the canal where the spinal cord goes), moderate disc degeneration on the left side, some spurring, narrowing off the neural canal, and a serious bulging disk, which is both leaking some fluid *and* impinging on both the S1 nerve, and on the nerves around L4 and L5.

So. Yeah.

I got an epidural injection of steroids yesterday (which is very not-fun…giant ass needles shoved into your spine are scary at the best of times, and even more so when you are in pain and by yourself).

Here, you can actually see the bulging disc.

So far, the injection is helping. They couldn’t put it where the bulging disc is, for concern that they could puncture it and cause more problems. Instead, they injected just above, which will help reduce swelling, and then I go back in 2 weeks for another injection. Fun.

With luck, they can encourage the disc to heal on its own, and I won’t require surgery or other major treatment. I’m understandably scared…I’m 36 and, even if the bulge heals, the other issues mean that additional problems are on the horizon.

I am, however, trying to remain positive. We moved to our current house at the perfect time, since all the major living spaces are on one level, and the halls are nice and wide. At the very least, I know I can hobble around here pretty well.

One thought on “Baby Got Back (Problems)

  1. Sweetheart. I have really enjoyed your posts. I am so sorry for these difficult times. I am amazed at how things can be diagnosed so much better today. Please know that you are in mine and Uncle Tom’s dawn prayers. We wish we were not so far away. Sending love

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