Tuesday, November 20, 2007

back update

Hey, y'all,* I went for a walk today. An honest-to-goodness walk, out the door, down the street, two blocks west, stopping at the 7-Eleven parking lot. Why didn't I go into the 7-Eleven for a soda? Because that company actively campaigns for AIDS in Africa. If you don't believe me, ask the guy who lives behind the dumpster in the 7-Eleven parking lot. He's going to bring that evil empire down.

For most folks, strolling a few blocks to look at a 7-Eleven is no great accomplishment. For me, this is the equivalent of Spinal Tap finding a 15 on their amps. Granted, I had help. I need a walker to keep me straight, but already I can make it across the room without assistance. The main problem is not pain or muscular weakness (although I do need to build my core strength back up) but reduced feeling in my feet and legs. In other words, I can't quite tell when my body is straight, when my feet are properly in contact with the ground, or when someone is butting out a cigarette on my thigh. My legs are covered in burns left by somebody or other.

Over the last few days I've been asked a few questions about my surgery, my current condition, my imperviousness to drowning, etcetera. Here are a few:

So, how is the post-op back?

The post-op back contains: 1) a 3" vertical incision at the L4/L5 site, right where I was going to get a sexy back tatoo, with several staples holding the wound together. Beneath the skin, a reduced disc and shaved-down vertebrae are doing their job pain-free. Some stabilizer muscles are exhibiting neurological weakness, so I have exercises a-plenty to do.

How's your pain?

There is no pain. There is only boredom. And then there is a DVD of Pretty in Pink, which Abigail Road brought by today.

Just curious about one thing, though. You can't walk, you can't stand up straight, you can't work ... yet, the medical care system considers this to be elective surgery?

Yup. The criterion for emergency cases is incontinence. I considered pissing on my doctor to get my surgery moved up.

I recommend taking this as an opportunity to manifest all of your worst personality traits and when people complain just point out that it's part of the healing process.

This is not a question, but it's an awfully good suggestion. Seriously. After I came home from the hospital, the pain and frustration began to pour out of me, as if the surgeons had nicked some bloated cyst during the operation. I felt anxious, angry and mean, a panic that followed me into and out of sleep, like a dolphin keeping pace with the prow of a boat. And then there's the ugliest question of all: what if my life is no better once the pain is removed? That one makes me sick to my stomach. But then I remember that I walked to the parking lot of the 7-Eleven with Schmutzie this evening, and we laughed all the way. And all the way back.

I don't mean to pry here, but a few paragraphs back you implied that your wife burnt you with cigarettes. Is this true?

Yes. She also chokes me during sex, except we're not really having sex when she does it. She calls it sex, but that's her code word for "trying to escape the apartment again". Please contact the police.


elsie said...

I am so happy for both you & Schmutzie. What a hellish year. But thanks to modern medicine, you are both going into 2008 as healthy human beings. Cyber-hugs to the whole family, including Oscar & Onion.

Schmutzie said...

What? And no mention of beatings with the pillowcase filled with oranges? You hardly do my work justice.

witchypoo said...

It's thrilling to learn that you have no pain and that your wife is committing unspeakable acts upon your person.
You have such a rich life:)

jon deal said...

I think we out here in the Internet wilderness are going to have to see photos of the scar later next year.

And don't give up on the "tramp stamp" tattoo dream! Maybe some really good tattoo artist could incorporate the scar into the sexy back tattoo.

And remember, as you are doing your physical therapy: most physical therapists are Sadists in training. They LIVE to cause you suffering.

At least that's always been my experience with them.

Erin said...

When your wife tries to kill you, all is right with the world.

So happy things are looking up.

savia said...

Okay, that last paragraph made me laugh out loud, and it takes a lot for that to happen these days.

ozma said...


You are bumming me out about the Canadian Health System I am like an evangelist here for the Canadian Health Care system and you are messing with my faith, man.

I posted my theory of what famous people are for but yours is still better. DAMN YOU!

Next up: Why I love Canada.

palinode said...

elsie - Thanks so much. Onion particularly likes a good hug.

schmutzie - I don't count the orange-filled pillowcase beatings as abuse, because I get to eat all those delicious oranges afterward. Not to mention the sack-of-doorknobs assaults, because afterwards I get to open all those doors.

witchypoo - My life is rich with painlessness. It's a good feeling.

jon deal - Tramp stamp! I knew there was a term for those tattoos that sit right at the small of the back. And have no fear: if Schmutzie has her way, there will be photos.

erin - You are so right. She's promised to push me off the balcony for Christmas.

savia - I aim to please.

ozma - Don't give up your faith in the health care up here! I am the classic 'falls through the cracks' example. But don't forget that I just spent several days in the hospital, received excellent care from knowledgeable and caring staff, took a lot of great painkillers, came out of surgery with no complications (except for the nerve issues, which were unavoidable), and my out-of-pocket costs were ZERO. My follow-up bloodwork and physical therapy will also cost me ZERO. And that is part of what I get for being a Canadian citizen. Is it perfect? No. Is it better than an employer-based health insurance system? Yes.

As I've mentioned before, there are disadvantages to this system, especially when you've got an injury that causes a lot of pain but is not immediately life threatening. In that case, you need someone within the system who can advocate on your behalf, and it took me months to find such a person.

It's also true that I know several people who've gone to the Mayo Clinic or Johns Hopkins to get treatment that is either unavailable here or that takes a long, long time to get. And for that, you may end up paying a lot, unless you can convince the health care system here to spring for it.

Also, health care in Canada is by no means monolithic. Health care is run by the provinces, so some places have better systems than others.