Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Checking in for November

I didn't mean to go so long without posting, but disaster struck a few weeks ago. In early October I noticed my lower back was aching, so I did what I always do when I have these aches: I took Advil, I was careful with my movements, and I used my trusty hot water bottle to soothe. The pain, however, got worse. On October 17, my son asked if I would bike with him for ice cream and I begrudgingly agreed. By the time we got downtown, I couldn't lift my leg to get it over my bike frame without screaming out in pain. I don't know how I made it home, but I did and I swallowed a handful of Advil, nursed my back with the hot water bottle and prayed things would get better. My in-laws were flying up from Texas the next day so we could celebrate my husband's landmark birthday out in western Massachusetts.

You know where this is going ... I woke up on Friday morning and I could. Not. Move. Moving my leg caused the most god-awful pain in my lower back I actually screamed. It was so bad, I asked my husband (who luckily stayed home from work that day) if he could help me up to the bathroom. When we couldn't make any progress -- I simply could not move without yelling -- it was obvious I needed help.

Fifteen minutes later we had four paramedics in our bedroom. They had to pull me to the edge of the bed and slide me onto a chair, to which they then tied me. The pain was so horrible, all I remember was that I was screaming out with every jostle and tears were pouring out of my eyes uncontrollably. Relief came when they somehow got me onto a stretcher so I could lie on my side. The paramedic who stayed in the back of the ambulance with me was so kind, as was everyone who took care of me in the ER. I was admitted to the hospital for the weekend until the pain could be managed enough so that I could at least perform basic movements without howling like a banshee.

(One funny story. My husband and son were in the room with me when one of the nurses was helping me stand up after I'd managed to get myself upright. The pain was so bad, I yelled out "Son of a bitch!" only the "bitch" part got yelled. Everyone was laughing, even the nurse. She told me not to worry, she'd been called worse. ;-) )

My hospital stay was mostly good, except for one very awful, terrible, incompetent doctor, who was, unfortunately, the doctor I had to deal with most. Everyone with half a brain cell could see I was suffering from some kind of disk injury, but she kept cheerfully telling us it was "a back sprain" from "standing on a ladder." Where the &^%$ she got this, I don't know. She was going to discharge me without any recommendation for followup care with a physical therapist, but thank God the therapist on duty refused to sign my discharge papers until the doctor changed her orders for a home PT evaluation.

My PT is a saint. She was annoyed when she saw what the doctor had said about my condition; she could tell by looking at me I probably had a herniated disk. Luckily our family doctor agreed, so I was approved for 2 to 3 weeks of in-home physical therapy.

Then, the next medical adventure. My back was starting to feel a lot better, thanks to the drugs and some of the exercises I was doing, when I noticed my feet were swelling. The swelling seemed to diminish by the end of the night, but when I woke up Friday morning, both legs were swollen. My saintly PT took one look, felt my calf ("Ouch!" I yelled) and she knew we had a problem. My husband left work, drove me up to my doctor, who performed an exam, then they had me go directly to the hospital for an ultrasound. It was the end of the day, and the ultrasound technician told me, "Well, you're the only person who has been in here today who turned out to have deep vein thrombosis." Three of the major veins in my calf were completely blocked; if the clots let loose, they could lodge in my lungs and cause a pulmonary embolism, which is another word for "Quick Death." Yay for me! So it was off to ER all over again.

I didn't have to stay the night, but now I have to inject blood thinners into my stomach for the next few days until the Coumadin (blood thinner via pill) kicks in. I'll be on blood thinners for the next six months. SIX MONTHS! It also means no biking. If I fell and injured myself, it could be disastrous, given that my blood won't clot. (I've already got some horrible-looking bruises on my legs from bumping into things; great, a visual map of my klutziness!) I have a visiting nurse drawing blood every couple days to make sure I'm not over- or under-medicated, and I can't eat leafy greens like I normally do because the vitamin K in greens interferes with the Coumadin.

Yesterday it all kind of hit me and I kept going through these crying jags. I know, I know, things could be worse ... a LOT worse. But I'm normally a healthy, active woman and now? Now I feel like an invalid, trapped in my home. The thought of not biking for six months is making me insane. As my brother pointed out, though, at least this happened in October and not April. Then I beat myself up for feeling bad because I know things could be a lot worse, that there are people who are facing far worse medical trials than I am. I decided this a.m. that if I need to feel bad or cry, it's okay, but that things will get better and I have a lot to be grateful for. My back injury is getting better each day, I'm having no trouble weaning myself from the God-awful amounts of painkillers prescribed to me, and I'm determined never to have a repeat of this "adventure." I told my friend Linda this afternoon that I'm going to do whatever it takes to keep myself away from a hospital for the rest of my life. I don't smoke, don't drink, or live a risky lifestyle, so at least that's under control. I do, however, need to take off a few pounds and work on building muscle as I approach my 50s, so this winter I'm going to work on eliminating sugar (my bugaboo) from my diet and start walking a significant amount of distance each day. We have acres of trails around us, and if it snows, I've got snowshoes, an even better workout!

So while October kicked my butt and November isn't my favorite month, despite it being my birthday month, I'm optimistic that this whole experience will become a turning point for a better future. :)

As for knitting? I've been working on a few projects, but keeping on top of my medical issues has left little time for knitting -- that and I'm beat by 8 or 9 p.m. I'm working on a cardigan sweater, knit from wool I purchased at Drumlin Farm several years ago -- I have one and a half sleeves to go, plus a button band. I've knit a couple small Christmas presents, including my first toy (a hedgehog, very cute! But I mucked up the eyes) and am about to cast on for a new pair of socks. As soon as things settle down, I'll post some pictures.

It's good to be back. :)



  1. Hi, we must live near each other! I'm in Brookline and you're . . . nearby. We both go/have gone to Drumlin Farm. You knit, I write posts about sheep (and other things!). You make me laugh/cringe with sympathetic pain, I . . . well, you don't know me, but I'd like you to.

    My family's from Crich, Derbyshire, I've lived most of my life in the US, but longed to go home (to England) most of the time. Last year I took my two daughters, ages 8 and 16, to Cambridge (Eng, not Mass) and we had Our Year of Living Englishly. Please come check me out. I'd love to have you follow me and list my blog in your blogroll.
    Best wishes, Virginia at wordpress.com/theyearoflivingenglishly

  2. Nice to meet you, Virginia, and thanks for commenting on my blog. I will definitely add you to my blogroll. I used to work in Brookline (I'm out in Bedford and definitely don't miss that commute.) I hope in March I'll be able to get out to Drumlin Farm's Wool Festival; would love to meet up!

  3. I tried to leave a comment yesterday, but for some reason it didn't go through. I'm sorry you have had such an awful month. That deep vein thrombosis episode was a close call. I think you should get double the usual amount of birthday gifts to help redeem what sounds like possibly The Worst Birthday Month Ever.

  4. Thank you, Kristie -- as for your comment, my hosting company has been under brute force attacks by spammers/hackers. My blog has been down more than it has been up. We're celebrating our birthdays this weekend (husband, son and I all have birthdays within a three-week span) and we've all had a good time, so things are looking up. :)


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