Well, what a week this has turned out to be.
After writing last week about the terrible infection I picked up while at the ER with my dad, I finally made it back to work on Tuesday.
It was during the lesson before lunch that things came unstuck again.
I had been struggling all morning with weakness and feeling as though i hadn’t really been ready to return to work. Toward the end of the lesson I emailed my boss no told her how terrible I was feeling, and we decided together that I should stay home on Wednesday and try to get stronger. Then, in one seemingly innocent moment of acting so as to not infect my students with any evil germs I might still be carrying, I turned away from them to cough.
That cough was violent, and I was gasping for air and hacking up a lung and the same time.
That was when I felt my back go.
I remember thinking “that’s not good” as the fireworks went off in my lower back. I have had a similar thing happen previously and it has always sorted itself after that initial flash of pain.
Not this time.
It was all I could do to maintain my composure. I couldn’t sit. I couldn’t stand properly. The pain was immense. And for some reason, I kept thinking it would be okay on a few moments.
“Walking will help,” I said to myself as I dismissed the students and headed for my car.
“It will settle as I relax,” I told myself as I started the car.
By the time I was halfway home, I was in agony and had no choice but to keep going.
“Maybe I need to stretch it,” I thought. So I stopped each time the pain got too bad, stretched and walked a little, and kept going.
When I got home, I gave thanks that the trip was over and went to lie down for a while, reminding myself that quietness and rest had always brought relief in the past.
I don’t know whether I slept or if I passed out while lying there, but it was 5pm when my best friend woke me. I knew I was in trouble: I could t feel my right foot at all, but I could definitely feel the lightning-hot pain that extended from my pelvis to my right ankle.
My bestie took me to the ER, where the medical staff showed amazing patience and sympathy while I spent the next six hours screaming and moaning incoherently.
By midnight, I had been given the maximum dose of every pain-killer I could have, and I was still screaming, so they added Valium to the mix to try to relax my muscles.
“Why didn’t you go to the emergency room in Warrnambool right after work?” the doctor asked me. I had no answer, except that I really did think it was a spasm and it would settle down. I believe now that the pain had already been messing with my grip on reality by the time I got out of the classroom, and I know how incredibly lucky I was to have made it home without killing or injuring myself or anyone else.
I had never experienced anything like this level of pain before. That’s a big statement for someone who has at different times endured bulging lower lumbar disjcs, a torn Achilles’ tendon, and the physical process of more than one miscarriage.
This was a stabbing pain in my back accompanied by what felt like the worst cramp imaginable stretching from my butt to my right heel, only set on fire at the same time.
Medical staff at Camperdown sent me to Warrnambool via ambulance for an MRI. By morning, the doctors had organised to transfer me to one of the “clever hospitals” in Melbourne where one of the “clever doctors” wanted to operate as soon as possible.
Holy Toledo. They were using words like “significant impairment” and “danger of permanent disability” as they talked.
As it turned out, my L5/S1 disc had not simply bulged a little more than before. That sucker had ruptured and became an “ex-disc”. A piece of disc debris was pressing on my nerve, and both of them were sandwiched firmly between two vertebrae that were locked in far too intimate an embrace.
By Thursday afternoon I was being transferred to a city hospital, scheduled for surgery by one of the top “clever doctors”, and on my way to Melbourne with my best friend as my carer/escort/chaperone/cheer squad.
I can’t really explain how I was feeling. I was terrified, but my brain was so jangled by pain and sleep deprivation that I couldn’t really feel the full impact of my fear. Whatever my fears, I didn’t have much of a choice. So, I just tried to focus on the blessings of being transferred and seen so quickly without wondering what danger I was in that had precipitated such haste.
Another sleepless night followed. The pain was such that I hadn’t slept the previous two nights, either. I cried a fair bit instead, which I think is fair enough, really.
Today I met the surgeon, the anaesthetist, had an ECG and bloods taken ahead of being wheeled down to the theatre for my surgery.
When I came out of the anaesthetic, I was, by all acccounts completely hilarious. The nurses told me a few of the things I said, but these were voted the favourites of the Recovery Room nurses::
Nurse: “You were asleep for a very long time!”
Me: *with only one eye open* “Yeah, I was polishing my tiara.”
Me: “Oh, that feels nice.”
Nurse: “Whar does?”
Me: “My legs.”
Nurse: “Oh, the massagers.”
Me: “They are caressing my calves like the sensuous fingers of an adoring lover.”
Me: “I write poetry.”
Another nurse: “Can you say it again? I want to write that down.”
Me: “Nope. It’s copyrighted.”
The best part of the whole thing, though, is that the pain in my right leg is gone. The incision in my back has anaesthetic in it, so I can’t feel it yet unless I move.
My surgeon came to see me tonight after my surgery, and I cried as I thanked him. What an amazing person to take enough of an interest in someone from hundreds of miles away and make such healing and restoration happen overnight.
So after a highly traumatic couple of weeks, I can lie here in my hospital bed, looking out the window at the city lights as the fancy machine continues to pleasure my lower legs, and give thanks for my blessings.
I am thankful that my agony has ended.
I am so thankful for both the talents and the kindness of my surgeon.
I am thankful for my best friend and my husband, both of whom dropped everything and everyone else to take care of me.
I am thankful for those close to me who have consistently encouraged and cheered me, especially when I was feeling very low.
I am thankful for every message of love, aencouragement, support, care, concern and prayers from friends in the hundreds of texts, Facebook messages, voice mails and emails.
I am thankful for so, so much else, too. How blessed I am to have such amazing people in my life.