This is my actual spine- the root of all my suffering ;)
Exactly one year ago today, Mike and my father drove me to doctor/emergency room because of my back, where I stayed for 2 days. I will re-cap the story for those that are unaware; I apologize for the length of this post!
I have had back problems since I was a senior in high school and fell once- bad enough for my mom to take me to the ER for x-rays. Over the years, my back used to give me problems from time to time but nothing too excruciating. In 2008 I took a second job at Lush Cosmetics for extra cash and one night, while mopping the floors as we closed up, I slipped and fell on the wet floor. In hindsight, I should have reported it, but at the time I was just happy that no one was around to see me fall! Like the previous fall (14 years prior!), I landed on my tailbone. This time I guess was all my back needed to get REALLY messed up. After the fall my back became really sensitive. It would bother me to lift things, bend over a lot, etc. It got to the point where I would be in pain for a day if I did something like clean the bathtub or paint my toe nails- any kind of repeated bending over.
Last March, while at work, I was in my boss's office, doing some work on his computer- honestly just sitting there doing nothing. For the past couple of days, my back had been a little sore and tender but nothing too bad and I'd definitely been in worse pain before. I finished the work I needed to do and I stood up from my boss's desk/chair and immediately was hit with some of the most blinding, excruciating pain of my life. It hurt to sit back down and it hurt to stand and I ultimately forced myself to sit back down. I hadn't done anything but sit at a desk all day so I don't know what brought that sudden pain on. I literally screamed out to my coworker and by this time I was in tears, both out of pain and fear. She tried to help me move but the pain was too bad for any movement at all. She offered to drive me home but I decided it was better to call Mike to come and get me. Mike probably showed up in less than 20 minutes and it honestly felt like 2 hours. By the time he came to get me, I was in even more pain, still could not get up from the chair and was still crying. The pain was so bad that Mike and my coworker ended up having to wheel me to the car, while I sat in the office chair! I'm sure it must've been a sight to see!
Mike got me home and I told him that I probably just need to lay down and rest my back and use the heating pad and I'd be fine by the next day. I also happened to call my back specialist to make an appointment to see her- the soonest they could see me was the next day anyway. Once home, I laid in bed for a while until I realized that I had to use the bathroom. Mike tried to help me get to the bathroom and when I tried to sit down on the toilet, the pain was even MORE excruciating. There was no way I was going to be able to sit down that low and try and get back up. TMI, but Mike ended up having to help me use a bed pan while I laid in bed. (Definitely one of the most humiliating yet humbling moments of my life.) Anyway, I somehow made it through the night, but once the morning came we both soon realized that my back was NOT getting any better. Luckily I had my doctor appointment to go to that afternoon, although we did ended up needing help from my father. We needed his help to get me out of the house and to the car plus he had a wheelchair that we could borrow to help get me around.
My father and Mike managed to get me out of the house and into the car and to the doctor. Once at my doctor's office, she took one look at me and saw the pain that I was in and told me that I needed to go to the ER immediately. Luckily my back specialist is in the building adjacent to the hospital, so my dad and Mike just wheeled me over. Once in the ER, I was given Dilaudid for the pain and Xanax to calm me down. I was told that Dilaudid is 6 times stronger than Morphine. Would you believe me if I told you that it did NOTHING, absolutely nothing, for the pain? Eventually I was checked into the hospital and after an MRI and x-rays it was determined that aside from surgery, my only option was an epidural shot straight into my spine to relive the swelling of my discs- that is was what was causing my pain. For whatever reason they couldn't give me the epidural shot that day and we had to wait till the next day. Mike stayed overnight with me and took care of me and was the best nurse throughout the ordeal.
I ended up receiving one epidural shot (these are different than the epidurals women receive during labor) while in the hospital and about 5 more shots after that, with my doctor. I wouldn't be able to function today without all of those shots. Getting them was painful but not as much pain as I'd be in without them! My doctor diagnosed me with degenerative disc disease. When I fell in high school, I had a mild herniation in my L4 disc. As a result of my second fall and having DDD, I now have herniated discs in my L3, L4 and L5 with bulging discs on my L2 and S1. Everyone's spine degenerates as they age, but because I have DDD, my spine is degenerating at a rapid rate. My doctor said that it's as if I had the spine of an 80 year old woman. Unfortunately there is no cure for DDD other than surgery. In addition to the DDD, I also have degenerative joint disease (osteoarthritis) which is causing me to have major hip and knee joint pain.Immediately after I finished my series of epidural shots and was pain-free (what a feeling that was!), I began physical therapy at the hospital. I also continue to see my pain doctor every 4 months, to check on my back and determine whether or not we need to change/adjust my pain meds. Unfortunately I am no longer pain-free; I have pain every single day, but it's manageable. My doctor and I are going to revisit the idea of me getting another epidural shot during my next appointment in April, so we'll see what happens then.
Now that it's been a year since I was hospitalized, so much of my life has changed. I take vitamins for my bones and joints daily and I take pain meds almost every day. I no longer shave my legs very often or paint my toenails on a weekly basis like I used to, because it hurts my back. I have to be very conscious of every movement I make, for fear of doing something to aggravate my back. Doing normal things like sweeping, laundry or cleaning the bathroom hurt my back now. When my doctor told me that I have the spine of an 80 year old, he wasn't kidding! There are so many little things I can no longer do, or are harder for me to do, now that I have DDD. Just this past week, I realized that simply standing at my kitchen sink for 20 minutes to do the dishes hurts my back- because of all the weight/pressure from me standing in one spot. How ridiculous is that? I can no longer wear 'normal' shoes and have to wear orthopedic support shoes. Wearing supportive shoes makes a huge difference in my pain level, so of course I choose my back over fashion! Even going to the movies and concerts is hard on me now. I still go a lot, but now when I go, I have to make sure I take my lumbar pillow to help support my back. I think one thing that bothers me the most is not being able to play with Riley the way that I would like, because of my back. I see Mike getting to run with her, roll around on the floor with her- there is no way I would be able to do that. I get to take Riley on very long walks (which are supposed to be good exercise) but 90% of the time, my back hurts from all the walking. I still walk- I absolutely love walking her, I just have to put up with the pain that comes with it.
Because of DDD, I am a person living with chronic pain. There is not a day that goes by that my back or hips don't hurt in some way. I don't remember what it's like to not be in pain. I think it's sad that I've learned to live my life in pain.
DON'T EVER TAKE YOUR BODY FOR GRANTED PEOPLE!
Me in while I was in the ER and my view from the hospital bed.