On Monday, I asked my wife to drive me to the emergency room that’s close to where we live.
I had spent the weekend periodically emitting raucous groaning noises whenever I shifted my body in bed — the slightest movement would cause massive pain, especially on the right side of my lower back, which spazzed out from time to time.
By Monday morning, I was unable to walk normally, and my unnatural gait was making the dog very nervous.
So we drove to the hospital; I hobbled into the ER on a cane.
They soon took x-rays, and after that ordeal (I had to be helped to lie on my side), they administered steroid injections and gave me some pills — but not the good stuff — to temporarily calm down the inflammation of the muscles in my back and hips.
Eventually I saw the ER doctor, who explained to me that I was suffering from something called lumbar radiculopathy. *
The young doctor was very nice. I did not mention to him the asshole episode I had with some college friends up in Jersey where I decided on a drunken whim to slide down a frozen waterfall and almost busted my tailbone.
He explained to me that the canal inside my vertebrae, which contains my spinal cord, is gradually narrowing.
Due to the “aging process,” bone spurs were now pressing against the nerves that sprout out of the spine, causing the inflammation.
To protect the inflamed area, my body was tensing up the muscles around my lower spine (this is a normal defense strategy that the brain takes, if it can, when you get injured), which was causing these horrendous spasms.
But this tensing up of the muscles puts mucho stress on the inflamed nerve(s), which causes more pain signals to reach my brain, which responds by further tensing up the muscles around the area — a fiendish feedback loop of perpetual self torture.
The immediate solution was to fill the prescription medications once I got back home.
These include industrial strength ibuprofen and acetaminophen, prednisone, and tramadol (unfortunately he was only allowed by Florida law to prescribe a 3-day supply).
I also have to start physical therapy, lose a ton off weight, and see a neurosurgeon to confirm the diagnosis and assess if surgery is required to permanently fix this condition. Since I don’t have supplementary Medicare insurance, I doubt I would go down this road anytime soon.
I was back home at 2PM.
My 70lb German shep was happy to see me, and around 4:30 my wife took my driving license and went to the Winn-Dixie pharmacy and picked my meds.
The tramadol kicked in by 5:30, and finally the pain subsided.
Life was pleasant again, as an invitingly warmish breeze picked up in the relatively tranquil place where I live, and the ambiently calming tonalities of Robert Rich’s 1,000 Tears played on the Soundscapes channel on cable TV.
The truth is, I had been venturing into a morose, self-pitying place lately as a result of constant back pain, and was seriously considering getting my primary doctor to legitimize an application for one of these DMV signs so I could hang off the mirror of our 2010 Escape beater.
But I don’t really need this passport to convenience parking, given that I isolate indoors most of the time, like the closet eremite I am by nature, rarely venturing out except to walk poochie in sundry isolated lieux.
Severe back pain is no joking matter, especially since doctors these days are reluctant to write you up a pain killer scrip for oxy or trammies unless it looks like your goose is cooked, and even then they might not oblige.
The tramadol, as always — it’s my preferred Zen vibe drug of choice! — did the trick, and I was able to relax for the first time in days and chanced a brief romp with poochie in the back porch of the house.
I had mentioned to the ER doc that I’m thinking about getting into a medical marijuana program to further reduce the pain-induced stress, and he’s all for it. So that’s one more thing I shall be looking into, despite the hassle of getting a FLA weed card.
It’s been two years since I last did bongs, when my wife and I travelled to Tavira and some French-speaking Portuguese literary-type in a bar hooked me up with some noble Moroccan hash.
This was after we had a long chat about Fernando Pessoa, whose father once lived in town, and I asked where I could buy “du shit” in Tavira. I knew from prior research on Wiki that “‘possession of cannabis in Portugal is decriminalized in small amounts for personal use,” so felt safe asking, no worries style.
The dude responded by breaking off a small bit from a round of compressed kief that he had in his pocket, and said it was a gift for my wife and I to further appreciate the plaintive beauty of Fado music — which I had mentioned often wafted, during our month long stay in Tavira, late on weekends from some venue not far from our Airbnb rental. I bought him a Sagres as a way of saying thanks, and later that night did indeed smoking shit while enjoying the view from our rental flat.
I absolutely loved to chill on grass during my callow youth in college, a lifetime ago, when you could buy a bag of weed for 15 bucks at the dorm from some nerdy Long Island kid called Turtle, and mutter inanities like “would you care to partake?” or “this stuff is really blowing my mind, man.” To think that I ever talked like this is seriously embarrassing to admit.
One more thing.
I had a COVID vaccine pre-scheduled the day after the ER visit.
But I blew it off on advice of the ER doctor.
He advised me that people with weakened immune systems (such as myself, due to Graves’ disease) need to consider carefully if they want to risk having a serious reaction to the COVID shot.
He said that, in my condition, subjecting myself to the COVID vaccine would be akin to pouring gasoline on a fire: I could end up in the hospital for a week, or worse. The justification for taking this risk would of course be that I presumably would then be protected from getting COVID — providing I survived the injection aftermath.
What to do?
The decision was an easy one.
My immune system is fighting on two fronts right now: Graves, and this lumbar thing. It doesn’t need a third one.
Best I stay low until I get over this back thing, then get the shot when they have a super duper one shot variant killer that’s safe, available and plentiful.
So on Tuesday, I passed on my COVID shot appointment — even though I had been trying to get my shots through the Publix system that I’ve talked about in previous posts.
I will do so further down the road, of course, but for the moment I’m holding off on the COIVD shot — especially since I actually don’t have to be in the proximity of gen pop unless I want to.
So that’s the skinny on my back pain story of woe.
Old age is a mighty bitch, but most of us accept having to deal with making physical adjustments at this stage of our lives, and we get on with it without too many complaints.
The key is not to give in, and push to always keep moving forward — looking back with bitterness or regret is a waste of time, especially if you don’t have much left to kill.
* Later I was to read in my med chart the following official diagnosis: “No acute fracture or collapse. Mild multilevel degenerative disc disease with height loss and spurring. Alignment in the coronal plane is normal.” Guess I’m getting shorter by the hour.