Tag Archives: Spine

I how know to do it, not

When my niece was a toddler, if an adult tried to assist her with a task she wanted to do on her own, she would hold up her hand as if to stop traffic and exclaim in an authoritative voice, “I how know to do it!” I seem to have become a toddler at the ripe age of 47.

Slowly, since my diagnosis with MS in 2005, I have had to come to terms with ways the disease limits my abilities, both physical and mental. I have adapted to the sometimes bone crushing fatigue. I endure pain, which is always there and sometimes extreme. I understand that I cannot hold up to large amounts of physical activity, instead learning to do exercise or other tasks in bite-sized increments. I have learned that heat can be crippling because it short circuits the electrical signals that travel over frayed nerves stripped of the myelin. I know that my brain does not work as quickly as it once did. I am a compulsively self-reliant person; however, I have learned to make adjustments. None of that means that I am happy with these limitations, but it is what it is.

Now, I have a new enemy of my physical independence: spondylolisthesis. A vertebra has slipped out of place in my spine, most probably the result of some unrealized injury in my childhood or teen years coming back to haunt me. An old stress fracture put the bone askew, and it finally became unstable. For a person who is resigned to physical limitations and the ongoing degeneration that can come with MS, I must admit that a slipped vertebra is kicking my ass.

I thought I had this disability thing down.  You know what I am talking about —  the whole  managing pain, exhaustion, embarrassment, and reliance on other people stuff. But now, I cannot walk across the house without agonizing episodes of pain shooting down my legs. I cannot bend over. I cannot lift anything. I am worn out from sleeplessness. I am foggy from drugs meant to alleviate the worst of the signals emanating from the nerve roots under pressure from the offending bone.  I am finding myself needing a helping hand from those caring family and friends around me. I admit it: I cannot do this on my own.

Life, as it is wont to do, is once again teaching me that I have lessons to learn. I only thought that I how know to do it.

It’s broke, so fix it!

My spine with L5-S1 spondylolisthesis

I suppose it is validation that I need to get my back fixed when the best thing to happen to me in a while is that I found out today that a good friend was able to talk to our mutual back neurosurgeon’s office and get me an appointment 2 weeks sooner than expected. When you look forward to a painful procedure, it gives some face validity to the seriousness of it that you are willing to go through pain to repair the damage. The conservative and intermediate treatments did not work. Time to go nuclear on the slipped vertebra in my spine! The errant bone is sitting on some nerve roots, and I cannot afford any more nerve damage than I already have.

In the meantime, I need to scramble to get my MS neurologist in touch with the spinal neurosurgeon to talk about my case. Then there is the litany of specialists — pulmonologist, allergist/immunologist, primary care doctor, etc. — to contact.  And, there are files and films to send a doctor for a second opinion. This should be a fun week of being on hold and waiting for call backs. All of this done while trying to work full time, being unable to sit comfortably for more than a few minutes at a time, and being unable to concentrate on much of anything because my back hurts.

With all of this, I am conscious of one overwhelming thought that should really not have to cross my mind in a civilized, industrial society:  thank goodness I have good health insurance to pay for all of this! I do not know how those not as fortunate as I in that respect get through much more serious things with the burden of insufficient or non-existent coverage in addition to the stresses of working through an illness.  I am not sure why our nation allows such a shameful situation to continue.