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My last two months March 8, 2015

Posted by digitalbrownshirt in Ducks, Family, News, Personal Experiences.

All of this is written under the influence of Norco, Valium and Naproxen, so sorry if it seems like it’s all over the place.

Starting back in December, while I was visiting Southern California for Christmas vacation, I started noticing more pain than usual in my back and leg. I’m a fat, middle aged man. I kind of expect pain in the back. This was the kind that dropped me to the floor and had me blubbering like Michael Moore when he got banned from the local Golden Corral. I thought I’d dislocated my hip. So being a man, I immediately tried ignoring it. I even took my 17 year old daughter to do a last minute Christmas shopping early in the morning on 12/24. I took 3 steps from my car, collapsed in the parking lot, then crawled back to my car on my hands and knees. The pain was easily a 9 or 10 on the 1-10 scale. Still I didn’t want to disappoint my daughter so I said “Here’s a $100, buy whatever you need, but try to be quick.” After 5 minutes I start looking for ER’s or at least an Urgent Care that handles sports injuries (the closest thing to a dislocated hip). Five minutes after that I texted my daughter (that’s right, I know how to text now) “Wrap it up. We’ve got to go to an ER.” Before you think my daughter is being selfish for shopping, let me tell you that in our house, if I tell the kids to do something, it’s very difficult to argue with me. She was kind of between a rock and a hard place at that point.

We ended up at a place called Apple Urgent Care. I figured they picked the name “Apple” because it was one of the first words in their Spanish/English dictionaries that they recognized. I talked to several people there, all of them seemed really sweet, but I’d bet money all of them were half guessing at what I was trying to tell them. There’s a lot of places in California that a working knowledge of Spanish probably would help. We were in Hemet, which 30 years ago was a small, peaceful retirement town near the mountains. Now it’s gang banger central with drive-by’s, home invasions and a ridiculous amount of violent crime for a such a small city. I heard more crime stories waiting at the pharmacy later than we have back home in a year. Even the doctor seemed perplexed by my explanation of my pain. I told her I’d been taking Naproxen, but it barely had any effect, so of course she gives me a prescription for Naproxen (which isn’t even a prescription medication). She also gave me a prescription for Norco (which worked a little better). She also made me drive (keep in mind I can barely stand up) to another facility to have an x-ray of my hip done. I only found out the x-ray was “normal” because I called back 3 days later. Not too impressed with the professionalism.

So I thought, I could either tough it out with pain that ranged from 2-6 while using Norco or actually check into a California hospital. I decided I’d rather get killed by an Oklahoma doctor, at least they wouldn’t have to ship the body home. Oddly enough, the only position that didn’t seem to completely kill me was sitting in the car. The Norco bottle didn’t say no driving on it, so I just tried to take it easy as we started back on our 1500 mile trip home. I let my wife drive some and we actually stopped in a Holiday Inn Express in New Mexico.

My family doctor finally saw me around 1/8/15, gave me another prescription for Norco and sent me out for an MRI on 1/15/15. Big surprise, it was a herniated disk between the L4 and L5. So the results get back to my doc, who then sets me up with a specialist on 1/22/15. She takes a look at the MRI and say’s “Piece of cake. It’s right in the back of the spine, so it’ll be easy to get to. We’ll just grind off a little of each vertebrae and take that pressure off the disk.” So I’m thinking “Awesome, it’s not in my head.” I actually worry about that sometimes. It’s out surgery which is also cool because at 46 years old I’ve never been a patient in a hospital before. I have to get a few more test done on 1/29/15, then the actual the actual surgery on 2/5/15. It seemed like it went really well and they sent me home the same day.

It went really well for about 2 weeks at least. All the stuff I read up about the surgery suggested I’d have about a 3% chance of infection. Guess it was more like 100% for me. I had a high fever, got more delusional than normal and ended up going back to the hospital on 2/18/15. I ended up staying in the hospital for over a week. My white blood cell count was through the roof (apparently that’s bad, I had to ask) and they did another MRI on me that said it was either an hematoma or an abscess on my spine. They stuck a tube up into my spine to drain blood and pus. They also grew some cultures from my spinal fluid to find out what was actually trying to kill me. Amongst other things I had a staph infection inside of my spine. It’s the weirdest feeling when a doctor tells you that you can die or maybe just be paralyzed by something you can’t even see without a damned microscope. Luckily there’s apparently more than one type of staph and I only got the one that made you want to kill yourself instead of the one that actually does it. By the way, the windows on the 7th floor of the hospital don’t open. I was trying to figure it out at one point. I’m glad my doctor told the hospital to give me pretty much anything I asked for to control pain. Morphine was my best friend for most of the week I stayed. I finally got well enough to go home, which was my main goal, but I had to say good bye to morphine. It was a bitter trade. My pain was bad enough to keep using, but you can only get it in the hospital unless you’re in the end phase of cancer apparently.

I’m seeing the specialist that give me my antibiotics on Monday. I have to have to change out the picc line once a week and they’ll give me another weeks worth of antibiotics. They told me I’d get one of those temporary handicap parking tags too. I can’t drive anyway, but at least my daughter won’t have to drop me off, then go find a parking spot a 1/2 mile away too. My surgeon is supposed to get me a new prescription on the same day. They seemed concerned because apparently if you take a narcotic for too long the pharmacy police will come get me or something. Nevermind if there’s something obviously wrong with me or not. Hopefully they’ll either switch me to something else or I’ll get better before I run out of this prescription. Either way it’s disturbing that the government decides if you need a medication without even seeing the patient.

I don’t blame the surgeons or the hospital for any of these problems I’ve had. I know that sometimes shit just happens. The hospital’s entire staff always treated me with dignity and respect. I know that they really wanted to help me as much as they could. One of the night watch nurses told me it was probably because I was one of the nicest patients they’d ever dealt with. It must have been the morphine that was making me so friendly.

picc line

They did set me up with a picc line which is something I’d never heard of before. It’s like a catheter that goes in near your elbow, travels up that big vein in your arm stops just short of entering your heart. I had to sign a form saying that they’d explained how it goes in and I was still willing to do it. They also asked me a few questions to make sure I wasn’t too loopy to sign a contract. Anyway I now have to have an anti-biotic injected into my picc line every 8 hours for the next 6-8 weeks. I also have to use a walker to travel more than about 30 feet. I think the psychological trauma of going from a stronger than normal 46 year old man to being almost like a 2 year old in strength has hurt worse than the surgery itself. I’m just thankful for my family that has been taking care of me, especially my daughter. She wants to be an RN someday and it’s obvious that she’s got the right mix of compassion for the hurt, plus she’s not putting up with any bullshit from her whining dad. That’s a mix that should serve her well.

I also want to thank my wife for helping me bathe. It’s not as sexy as it sounds, but being clean helps me psychologically. She even shaved me. (I’m talking about my face pervs.) I almost felt human afterwards. I can’t do it on my own because of the big cut in my back that’s still healing.

nurse rubber duck

Anyway, thanks for giving me a chance to have some catharsis for the last couple of months. I’m still not sure I’ll ever be able to go back to my old job. I’m a machinist. At the very least I’ll be out for 6-8 weeks and even when I’m OK to go back to work I’ll be on light duty. If, God forbid, I’m considered too damaged to keep working my current job (which I actually enjoy) then I hope I can get into some kind of rehab training. I’ve thought about going back to school before, but I always used the excuse that I had to earn a living to take care of my family. Now most of my family takes care of themselves and I’ve got enough dough stuffed away in my 401k (assuming the commander in thief doesn’t steal it) to pay off my house and some other small bills. Maybe this is some kind of sign that I should start a new chapter in my life. I better do some serious prayer about this.

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