Well, I'm sure all you good little boys and girls have been asking yourself, "How come I'm not getting nasty messages from that old bastard, dannye, these last few weeks? How come my crappy little writeups are passing by unscathed lately? Did that son of a bitch finally die?"
Prepare for disappointment. While it is true that I have been in too much pain to sit here at this computer and do my appointed rounds as I used to, I am still among the living and proud to say that for the first time in a month, I am almost pain free. "What was wrong, dannye? And why wasn't it fatal?" I can hear you asking. Well, here's the story.
This problem was due to a number of factors, probably, and it would be hard to say which was the real culprit: Bad posture? Automobile accidents? Old age? Grouchiness? Regardless the cause, the problem led to the need for a laminectomy. A laminectomy is the surgical removal of the posterior arch of a vertebra.
Your spine is a wonderful thing. And when you think of the difference it must have been when we quit walking on all fours and became upright beings, it's fairly damn amazing that the spine has evolved to the point where it can house those nerves as well as provide support for those organs which used to just dangle there with no real need for anything except connection. Those nerves which emanate from in between your vertebra are so crucial to your everyday activities; activities which you kids take for granted. But just wait! One day things will start to go wrong and you'll really have stuff to write angsty poems about.
In my case, the problem was between L4 and L5. This is around the base of your back a couple of inches just above your tighty whities. The pain involved when something goes wrong there is evident down the side of one leg or the other, all the way into your foot and toes. It was my left leg and foot. I had noticed a numbness in my left outside thigh for several years, but it was not really painful until recently. Then the pain began to be in my left outside calf and ankle, and my toes were numb. My regular family doctor referred me to a neurosurgeon who was not very talkative, but my wife is a physical therapist and she told me that this was the best guy in town for making sure things got fixed, so I accepted his lack of verbiage and trusted his judgement. He spent less than five minutes doing a few little tests to see how much movement I had in my foot, and it turned out that I could not stand flat footed and raise my toes on my left foot. He recommended an MRI, but that didn't really show what he wanted to see. And, for those of you who might have a problem with MRI's, when you have something which needs scanning other than your brain, you can ask for them to put you in that damn tube feet first so that you can hopefully avoid the panic attack that some folks have in those things. It's still fairly unpleasant for anyone who has this problem, but at least your head is not entirely enclosed. I still believe that they do something to your brain’s molecules, and I had flashes of panic, but it was not nearly as bad as the last one I had done about a year ago.
So the surgeon had me come in for a myelogram. This is an x-ray procedure where they inject a dye into your spine and this enables them to see abnormalities which might go missing on an MRI. It was not too painful, and the neurosurgeon was there himself to see the procedure, thus avoiding having to interpret someone else's opinion about the results. This was comforting. After that, a CAT scan was done and the results showed that I did, indeed, need surgery. I know a lot of holistic types say you should avoid surgery at any cost, and I asked the surgeon what folks did in the old days. Would this problem not heal itself over time? Would the body not just finally absorb the bone fragment causing the problem? He said that it might, but it would likely take years and did I want to be in this much pain for that long? I agreed that I was ready for him to cut me open like the carp I was and rearrange my body parts.
The surgery was last Friday, and I've got to tell you that I was a bit apprehensive. I'd never had any surgery in my life except when they took out my tonsils when I was a kid. And, as you probably know, that was a long, long time ago. But my lovely wife took off work and held my feeble hand, metaphorically, during the ordeal. I can't tell you how helpful it is to have someone with you when you're going through something like this.
I tried to stay calm, but I've got to tell you that it's pretty frightening when they wheel you into this operating room and you see all the shiny metal instruments being readied, just for you. And then I saw this table they were going to put me on to do the actual surgery. A big double arch was laid down on that table, looking somewhat like a mini-McDonald's, and they were going to put me to sleep and somehow transfer me to that table where I would be laid, ass-up, for this ordeal. Luckily, the gas and the IV drugs took me out very quickly and the next thing I knew, I was in the recovery room and it was a couple of hours later.
Shall I try to define the pain I was in? Let's just say that any time I was lucid enough to ask for more drugs, I asked. And it took me longer than most, I was told, to "get my pain under control." I believe it was Demerol they were using, because I had no euphoria that one would expect from real opiates; just sleep.
The surgery was at around 11 AM and at around 4 PM they took me up to a room. The nurse told me that I was going to have to get up and piss within a couple of hours, or they would have to put in a catheter. I assured her that I would be pissing very soon.
The problem was twofold, however. First of all, the pain when trying to get out of bed was almost passout unbearable. My wife showed me how to do the "log roll" where you roll over on your side and let your feet dangle off the bed and use your arms to push yourself up. I managed to work my way to the bathroom and lean over the toilet to try and piss. It was impossible. It felt as if the muscles you would take for granted when taking a leak no longer worked. I dribbled a couple of drops and then gave up and went back to bed. This went on a couple of more times before I gave up pissing like a man and sat down on the toilet. I managed to piss enough that time to feel as if I wasn't lying when I told the nurse that I'd "voided my bladder" completely.
The incision is about 3 inches long on my lower back, right along the spine. This is Sunday, and I took the dressing off today and took a shower. Yesterday was pretty painful, but today is like a brand new morning and I'm able to sit here and write this with minimum effort. I'm told that it will be two weeks before I can drive again, and six weeks before I'm back to my normal self. But the relief I feel today makes me think that it might be sooner.
For those of you who will /msg me and say, "This is the sort of shit that you're always telling me belongs in a Day Log, asshole!" I can only say that there was no node for laminectomy and I felt as if telling this story might assist someone in knowing what to expect if you ever have to undergo this procedure.
Now, my regular doctor was nice enough to give me plenty of Meperidine (Demerol in a white powder in a capsule form, which can be melted down and injected if you are into that sort of thing),but this neurosurgeon will not give me anything strong. (Perhaps he noticed some little track marks on my arm when they had me lying on the McDonald's arches?) So I'm likely to be in even more of a foul mood than usual for the next few days. Forgive me my trespasses as I will not likely be in much of a mood to forgive yours. Happy noding.