my week of back pain
It all started a week ago...
The day started well enough, I got up early, and was showered and dressed and ready to leave the house by about 8:30am... my destination, Ikea, to swap the frame I bought last Sunday that was too small.
The trip itself was uneventful, although traversing Ikea just after they open on a Sunday morning (especially since I went in via the cash registered and was far away from any people) is kinda freaky.
But I swapped the frame, then when I got out to the car I got a text from Ma asking me to pick up a frame in the same size that I'd just returned (grrrr)... and I nearly didn't... I was already in the car, and I started driving away... but at the last minute I got an attack of the guilts and went back.
I'd also thrown my camera bag in the car with me when I left the house, with the intention of stopping at a couple of places to shoot some street art. One of those was by the cemetery at Hindmarsh, and while the street art was a bust, I did end up wandering around the cemetery for a while (and there are a bunch of photos from that that should have been posted last Sunday but will have to wait for another day).
This was followed by a couple of street art stops in Prospect and Bowden, and then I headed back to North Adelaide to grab a newspaper and some lunch.
It was when I got home that the trouble began.
I still have no idea of the why or how of it all, but I know that when I parked in the rear carpark in my building I put the sunshade up in the front window and then went to grab the bag with my shopping in it, along with my camera bag and hoodie and the stuff from Ikea. So an armful really.
As I went to get out my back twinged a little, but I didn't think anything of it, it was only when I tried to stand up straight that I thought I was going to throw up from the pain shooting through my body.
I had to stop and lean against the car it was so horrible... and it took me a good long while before I could gather together all my stuff and walk, very, very gingerly, to my apartment.
When I made it in the door I dropped everything on the chair and headed to the bathroom to pee.
But when I was finished with my ablutions I could hardly walk... I managed to grab onto sinks, doorframes and furniture to get from the bathroom to the bed, lay on the bed to change from my jeans to trackpants, but found I couldn't get up off the bed again.
So I crawled... or made my way via the floor... from my bed to the chair in the lounge room. This is a trip of maybe four steps... with one thing and another it took me about ten minutes, and once I found myself at the foot of the chair I had no idea how I was going to get in it.
But I managed it somehow and thought that if I could just sit for a while my condition might improve (stupid I know, but it has happened in the past, although I was never this bad to begin with).
I couldn't really turn the pages in the paper, I could hardly eat my lunch and the longer I sat the more I found myself listing over to my starboard side.
So I did the only thing a self respecting man in his late 30's does when confronted by a sudden onset medical condition.
I phoned my mummy!
Ma, god love her, dropped what she was doing and headed over straight away, but by the time she got here I was essentially slumped over the right side of my chair, and still in pain.
But she found me my painkillers, which had been too far away for me to get to, warmed up the wheat bag she brought down and fussed around as only a mother can.
It wasn't really helping though, so with the aid of a decorative walking stick I have in the house, I managed to make it from the chair to the bed bent over like an L bracket and tried to find a comfortable position.
Ma had also brought with her the number of a health line thing I'd never even heard of, so she called that and I spent a period of time answering some slightly odd questions to the nice lady on the other end of the line, who then advised me I should see a doctor. A little bit of a "well dur" moment thinking back on it, but she gave us a couple of numbers to call, neither of which turned out to be very useful.
Eventually Ma got given a number for a place that would send somebody out, but it was possibly going to take a couple of hours.
By this point I was drifting in and out of sleep (something that was a recurring theme for much of the week), but the doctor only took about half an hour to show up.
I can't say I was very impressed with him though... he asked me less questions than the phone lady, poked my back once and suggested some stronger painkillers. Not the best examination ever. Plus he thought he was funnier than he actually was.
But at least we had a diagnosis of sorts (pulled muscle, will get better over time)... so Ma went and got some more drugs and bits and pieces and I tried to struggle through as best I could... with lots of napping.
The weird thing is that I'm not a napper... I never nap... but I've slept more in the past seven days than I possibly ever have in my adult life.
Ma was talking about staying here with me overnight, but eventually I convinced her that I would be okay to at least get myself to the bathroom with the assistance of a couple of walking sticks, so she left me around 9pm or so.
Honestly, I don't remember a stunning amount of Monday. I think I napped/slept for most of the morning after an actual decent night's sleep.
Ma left work at lunchtime and came down to look after me... which, a little like Sunday evening, was probably incredibly boring for her since most of what I did was sleep.
But I was also annoyed with the whole situation, and myself, and my back and with her for not being a mind reader... but that last bit kind of snapped me out of it and I realised that if I didn't actually ask for what I wanted/needed, then I wasn't going to get a damn thing.
So I asked... I can't really remember what it all was, but I'd decided at some stage overnight that having a proper pair of crutches would be a good idea, so I asked Ma to find me somewhere that hired them out.
What I should have done was Google it myself and provide her with a number to call, because that's what I ended up doing anyway (took me all of 10 seconds to find somewhere just on the other side of the city). So off she went to fetch them while I, unsurprisingly, napped.
The crutches turned out to be one of my best ideas, and exactly what I needed.
What was supposed to happen on Tuesday was Ma was going to come down after work to make me dinner. But when I woke up on Tuesday morning I felt worse and the pain that had seemed to be confined to my back was now making it's way down my leg.
So I called Ma again and suggested that a trip to the Emergency Room might be in order.
We'd already discussed it the previous afternoon, but I didn't feel too bad at that stage, so I'd decided against it.
Fortunately I'd caught Ma before she headed into work, so by the time she made it down here and I hobbled out to the car on my crutches and we made it to the ER, it was just on 9am.
We didn't leave until 5pm.
Fortunately, the first four hours we were there were good... since the waiting room was pretty much deserted, it wasn't too long before a very handsome young doctor (who turned out to be a sixth year medical student) beckoned me inside.
He got me all settled in an exam room and went through a very detailed set of questions with me... then left me briefly and one of the nurses came in and asked me some of the same questions again (seriously, what the actual fuck... surely that's not actually necessary)... then he came back, examined me, poked and prodded me (in some places very much not on my back), then sent me off to be x-rayed.
Just as a quick aside, I did feel kind of sorry for Hot Medical Student Guy... I'm not sure how long he's been dealing with actual people, but he hadn't quite gotten into the groove of talking to real people about medical things yet I don't think. He reminded me of that English show (I think they did an Australian version too) where they follow medical students around as they make their way through the whole process... and there was one of them who didn't quite find his feet until later in the game... he reminded me of him. I really just wanted to say to him "You're doing fine dude... just take a deep breath, relax and don't be so nervous"... but that just seems incredibly patronising.
And a cute orderly came and wheeled me down to wait for a while in x-ray before a quite cute and highly twisted (in a good way) x-ray technician came and got me and did what he needed to do.
Seriously, I was waited on/wheeled around by three very attractive men... not something that happens all the time... but I didn't mind. And I don't think they gave me any particularly mind altering medication to make me think they were all cute.
After x-ray though, things fell apart a bit.
When they wheeled me back to ER, all the exam rooms were busy, and then we were at the mercy of the senior orthopedic doctor to finish whatever very important, life saving things he was doing so that he could spend five minutes looking at my x-rays.
I mean, really? I'm sure it was all very important and very probably actually life saving, but you're telling me that there is nobody else that could possibly have looked at those xrays for FOUR HOURS?
I didn't particularly care much... I was given a pillow and a slightly crappy hospital blanket (and some slightly crappy hospital sandwiches at same stage) and I pretty much either slept for large chunks of the afternoon or else existed in that weird state where your brain still feels like it's whizzing along like normal but your body appears to be asleep.
Or some combination of the two.
I never did get to see the very senior doctor however... eventually Hot Medical Student came back and said that there was nothing sinister or alarming on the x-rays, and they were going to send me home with two lots of painkiller/anti inflammatory (that one of the nurses had already delivered) that would piggyback off each other... and that if things got worse, I should go and see my GP (which I don't actually have since a) I'm almost never that sick and b) the last one I went to was a complete prick and I'm not going back there again) for further imaging.
So an eight hour day was spent essentially telling me what the doctor on Sunday told me in five minutes.
Although they did give me some lovely drugs. And it got me out of the house.
Given that I'd stolen all of Ma's Tuesday from her and I had the lovely drugs and the crutches and I was much more able to manage on my own, I spent the majority of Wednesday napping, watching movies on the laptop (which has been very helpfully by my bedside the whole week, even though it's impossible to type on while lying down and almost as impossible to read large slabs of text on while in that position).
I also managed to have the first shower I'd had since Sunday morning. It wasn't especially easy... but it was good to finally feel clean and shave and just not be a big stinky lump.
After the shower I also managed to hobble into the kitchen with the help of my crutches and make myself some cereal, which also felt like an achievement.
Ma did come down after work though to make me some dinner and just check up on me, tidy up after me, that kind of thing. She has, in fact, been my fucking superhero this week. Sometimes I forget how awesome she is and how very much she does for me, and then something like this happens and I'm reminded of exactly how lucky I am.
Thursday was almost exactly the same as Wednesday, except I didn't bother having a shower, but I did make it out as far as the letterbox on my crutches.
The bright side of Thursday was the fact that Burger Theory brought their truck up to North Adelaide for the first time for dinner. So when Ma came down, I got into the car and we drove down to where they were. I never got out of the car, just sat there and waited... partly because I wanted the burger straight away and partly because I was just fucking sick of my four bedroom walls.
And it was totally fucking worth it.
Friday, again, was much like Thursday, which, as I mentioned, was much like Wednesday.
More laying in bed, more movies, more napping... and Ma came down to make me dinner again.
Although for some reason I got a little emotional of Friday evening just after Ma left (actually a little bit before she left, but I didn't really show it)... I really have no idea why... and it didn't last very long... but it may just have been that I didn't particularly think I was making very much progress or just the fact that this happened at all, a case of "Why me?"... I don't know.
I also, very fortunately, had bought a "Not Actually Mother's Day" card for Ma the week before, since I was planning to give her the tickets for Rock The Ballet on Saturday, just to space out the three lots of tickets I got her, rather than giving them all to her for her birthday. And since I was a little bit tired and emotional, I burbled a bit in the card... true stuff, but, you know... burble.
Just before I went to sleep I discovered that I could actually turn and move and do all though good things without any bother.
Except I think what happened was that I may have originally both pulled a muscle and either pinched a nerve or compressed a disc or whatever you do... because while the muscle type pain was gone, the standing, leaning, right side of my back pain was still there and still made walking and standing problematic.
Saturday was possibly the most exertion I've done all week...
The day started early-ish... Ma had promised to drop Princess T at work in the city, so once she was done with that she swung past my place before heading out to do the very minimal shopping I needed (since I really haven't eaten that much this week).
I was still half asleep at that point, so I mumbled a couple of syllables and sent her on her way and continued napping.
Before she got back I did manage to rouse myself, eat something and be much more chipper.
But when she returned, she did so with three of the little red packets containing the Series 7 Lego minifigures (sadly two of them were doubles, but the spare Space Marine has been keeping me company by my laptop)... I've been waiting and waiting and waiting for them to appear, so of course they did exactly that while I'm mostly incapacitated.
It did set off a chain of events though.
I got up to read the paper and drink my Iced Coffee and then decided to rearrange my minifigures in their cases to make room for the new arrivals as well as the rest of the new series (not to mention the large number of Series 2 figures I'd bought from eBay during the week... which is why it's always dangerous to leave me with nothing to do but play on the internet for a week).
And I actually managed to stay sitting up, reasonably pain free, for a good long while doing that, although eventually I'd had enough, so while Ma made some soup using the ingredients I'd bought to do that with last Saturday, I had a lie down for a while, before setting my mind at going to Target to get my hands on more of the minifigures.
The next step was a shower, and since I seem to be okay with standing after I've been doing it for a while, we headed out to Target once I got dressed and loaded up on my crutches.
Okay, so the next stage in the process was perhaps a little dumb, but was good for my mental health if nothing else.
I stood (well, leaned on crutches mostly) at one of the Lego minifigure boxes for what must have been 45 minutes feeling up every single packet until I'd managed to find the fourteen figures I was missing from the new series.
I'm actually kind of surprised that I managed to locate them all right away just by feel... some were kind of a process of elimination or a single accessory gave it away. It's exactly what I'd been planning to do as soon as they were released here... I just never imagined I would be doing it on crutches.
I don't know... maybe being upright that long actually helped, because even though I think I ended up sweating and being a little bit shaky by the end of it, by the time we got back to my place I could actually move a whole lot better. I still had to tuck my hips forward to be able to walk, but I could hobble around without crutches for a while (and was finally able to take a week's worth of photos for the May Photo A Day challenge) and managed to sit up again to have some lunch and then sort out all the minifigures.
Part of that was just having something to do to be honest... If I'd just been sitting there watching TV I don't think I would have lasted that long, but keeping my hands and mind busy helped.
All that being said, I was very glad to finally get back into bed... and only emerged after Ma went home for long enough to make myself a toasted sandwich for dinner.
Which brings us to today.
And I think that possibly writing this extremely long blog post may have been the longest I've been able to sit up in one stretch (although I'm reaching the end of my endurance I think)... and certain the longest I've been able to sit up without having to shift position every couple of minutes.
Of course I haven't tried getting up again yet either... that could be fun.
It's also the first day I've been by myself the whole time.
And it's the least I've used the crutches. Although I've still made use of walls, benches, furniture and a single crutch on a couple of occasions.
Sitting is still generally the problem though... and I'm not sure I'm willing to try sitting at my desk at work for eight hours just yet. Although if this rate of improvement continues, maybe later in the week, because, being a temp, if I don't work, I don't gets paid. And if I don't gets paid I can't keep buying Lego on eBay.
But my back is improving slowly.
The other thing that keeps playing on my mind is my other joints... my knees and my shoulders and whatnot... having to rely on all my other body parts during this whole experience, I didn't really think about them... none of them are perfect... and there have been moments where my knees and shoulders complained... so I have to watch that.
I'm just hoping that one day very soon I will wake up in the morning, roll over and get up and then suddenly realise that I'm completely pain free and standing normally.