On January 2, 1999, a day after one of the biggest one day snowstorms in the history of Chicago, I slipped on the ice. I was pretty proud of myself because I didn’t fall. Instead, I caught my balance with a quick upward jerk, said “whoa” and continued on my way. How inconsequential it seemed, just a silly spaz moment, one of many that gave me my college nickname of Crash. Later that night I took a warm bath, a couple of advil and drifted off to sleep.
The next morning, I COULD NOT WALK. There’s no other way to explain it. My spine felt like a very brittle twig, unable to hold up the rest of my body, like there was a piece of it missing, or exposed. I couldn’t hold my head up straight, couldn’t stand in the shower, and had to resort to crawling to the phone to call in sick to work. I was directed to the emergency room by my doctor. Luckily it was only a block away. There I was given a shot of something, perhaps heroin, because the pain temporarily subsided. Then came x-rays and an MRI. The verdict? Two herniated discs in my lumbar spine.
”Here, have some vicodin!” They said. ”The worst of the pain should go away in a few days."
So here we are, March 3, 2004 and I woke up this morning, popped a darvocet and headed out to work, thinking about these five years of near constant pain and the all of the shit I’ve gone through trying to relieve it. I used to be a competitive swimmer, so as soon as I could function again, I began swimming again, way back in 1999, careful not to do straining strokes like the butterfly or breast stroke. I underwent three series of physical therapy including traction, which literally straps you to a table and stretches you out EXACTLY LIKE THE RACK. I was put on the RACK people.
The drugs have been numerous in amount and variety. I was fully addicted to Vicodin for about six months, taking up to six pills a day. Still, my doctor grants me a prescription refill for it, two years later, without question. I have taken Relafen,Vioxx,Celebrex,Darvocet,Tylenol with Codiene,Naproxen,Cyclobenzaprine,Amitriptyline(to raise my pain threshold via anti-depressants (?!?!?)) and good old Advil. Currently I have a standing Darvocet prescription, and take one or two a day, more if I have to sit in a car or fly on a plane. I was given steroid injections straight into the spinal cord, which was, without question, the most pain I’ve ever suffered in my life.
Why in the world didn’t you have surgery? you ask.
If only! I saw two doctors. One said “You should have the surgery NOW, since you’re so young, you’ll heal quickly.” The other said “You’re so young that you shouldn’t have surgery, because your back will heal itself.” In the end, my general practitioner said surgery wasn’t the way to go.
I do Iyengar Yoga now, which helps tremendously. I used to be in pain 97% of the time, and now it’s down to about 65%. At this rate I’m going to feel god damn fantastic when I’m 41. What a great day that will be.
But I can't help but think how different my life would be today if I had only let myself fall on the ice.