Thursday, January 01, 2015

new year's day

How it happened.
A couple of days ago I was sitting on the bed writing on the laptop when the kitten trotted into the bedroom heading straight for the plant pot. He’s been pretty good at using the litter tray downstairs, but a couple of times he’s become confused by the pot chippings and squatted down there instead.
‘Hey! Solly! No!’
I put my laptop off to the side and leapt off the bed. There was an immediate scrunch of pain in my lower back so sharp it made me grunt and double over. I couldn’t straighten; instead I had to hold onto furniture and shuffle around swearing and gasping until I felt able to hobble downstairs to the medicine cabinet.
Solly hopped up onto the plant pot, blissfully uninterrupted.

So that’s how my back went.
Not kicking down a door to reach a patient. Not climbing through a window or monkeying up a drainpipe. Not hauling a large patient downstairs on the chair, or transferring a morbidly obese patient from a commode to a trolley. Not carrying a drugs pack, response bag, obs kit and Lifepak 15 up four flights of stairs. Not wrestling with an eighteen stone patient to stop them jumping out of the back of the ambulance. Not clearing furniture out of the way to reach someone, or climbing into the back of a wrecked car.

Trying to stop a kitten.

The physio was reassuring. She said I’d probably damaged a vertebral disc, the kind of non-specific back pain that would resolve in a few weeks. If I kept mobile, did the stretching exercises she showed me, used regular pain meds, took up swimming again, or Pilates, it would all be fine. It was a sign of wear and tear, though. Ten years of ambulance work have made me more susceptible to these kinds of injury. I probably ought to change jobs, find something less physically demanding.
So I’m off work for a couple of weeks, and on light duties for a few more after that.

* * *

The next morning, keeping mobile,  I took our dog Lola out for a walk across the fields. The mist was starting to clear, but still everything was muffled and cold. As I passed through the gate at the back of the recreation ground, a crow flew up out of an oak tree to my left, less like a bird and more like a branch magically animated and blowing away into nothing.

A man and his dog appeared out of the mist heading the other way.
‘Happy New Year!’ I said.
‘Welcome to the mud,’ he said, pulling his cap lower.

I walked on a haze of pain relief and low thoughts whilst Lola chased around in the gloom.
What if my back didn’t get better? What if the rest of my life was reduced to this level of pain and mobility? Even though I’d always thought of myself as an empathetic person, suddenly it struck me how clueless I really was. All I’d done was wrench my back. The physio seemed confident it would get better. How would it feel to face any of the hundreds of dreadful illnesses I’ve come across over the years? How would I cope then?
Eventually I came to a spot in the walk where I expected to see the wreck of a fallen tree. It had died some years ago, stood in an impressively warped display of old timber, then been blown down in a gale. I’d stopped there many times before because it was so dramatic. The dead wooden trunk had exploded when it hit the ground, scattering into twisted pieces of timber, ploughing up the grass, less like a fallen tree and more like the site of some terrible explosion. But here I was and the wreck of the old tree had completely disappeared. All that was left was a faint shadow on the ground.
Has someone cleared it all away? For firewood? But how did they make the ground right again?
It was only then I realised I’d walked further than I thought. The old tree was fifty yards behind me, still lying in splinters where it had fallen in that storm. In my introspective blur I’d stepped right through the bones without noticing. Not only that, but here I was standing by this new shadow on the ground, something I’d passed a hundred times before and never noticed, the shadow of some other, older tree, long since passed. It seemed significant, but I couldn’t figure out why.
I hobbled home.
Took more pain relief.
Thought about the future.
Wrote about a tree.


Sabine said...

Grr. Awful way to start the new year. Hope it will get better soon.

From a long time co-sufferer this bit of medical wisdom: Back pain usually gets better within two weeks if you do nothing (apart from what your physio told you). With cortisone injection it will get better within 14 days.

Spence Kennedy said...

Yeah - it's a real pain (fnaargh). Sorry to hear you get it too, Sabine. Reassuring to hear you say it'll get better in a couple of weeks. The cortisone injection doesn't sound like it'd make it any quicker! Anyway - here's one NY resolution I'm definitely going to keep: Take more exercise (Oh-kay. So that's me and about a million others...)

tpals said...

Happy (sort of) New Year, Spence!

Hope your back recovers soon. Can you also resolve to continue blogging even if you change jobs? Yours is the first I visit and I would miss your writing terribly.

jacksofbuxton said...

That's cats for you Spence.

Lola wouldn't have caused it.

(As you can tell,I prefer canine to feline)

Hope the back gets better soon.

Spence Kennedy said...

That's very kind of you, Tpals, thanks! Yep - I'd probably still write a blog of some sort. It's become such a habit I'd get twitchy if I didn't.

Happy New Year!

Jack - You're right. It's probably all part of the secret cat plan for world domination - so watch your back.


Eileen said...

Spence - can I recommend Bowen therapy? It may not help but it is something that kept my dodgy back in a decent enough shape to remain active and has relieved excruciating pain for several of my friends. No space to go into the details of hows and whys and for those who haven't got the t-shirt you will think WTF - how can this help? But it does.

And what about the recruiting they are on about for physician assistants? It occurred to me that would be an obvious role for paramedics and nurses with mangled backs or knees!

Happy New Year by the way! Take advantage of the enforced rest for some TLC - my paramedic daughter has just had 2 weeks sick. It helps to be able to breathe to carry things up and down stairs...

Spence Kennedy said...

Thanks Eileen. Bowen Therapy sounds interesting (just Googled it). At this stage I'm open to all suggestions! The physio was pretty good and gave me some stretching exercises. As soon as this episode has passed I'm going to sign up to something - maybe Pilates - something to keep me more limber & strengthen all those bits that need strengthening (a long list, I'm afraid).

Physician assistants is an interesting role, but one that would need a considerable amount of retraining - which for me at this point is probably not practicable. I'm applying for other, more office based stuff, the admin side of the NHS. I'll keep you posted!

Happy New Year! Sorry to hear your daughter's been off for a few weeks. Asthma / respiratory, by the sounds of it? Hope she's better soon - send her my best.

Thanks for the comment, Eileen. I hope 2015 is a good one for you (and you don't have any more back pain!)


uphilldowndale said...

Wishing you a healthy new year Spence. Take good care of that back, probably best not to think too deeply about all those illness you come across, it would eat you up! 'Stay in the moment' as the saying goes...

Spence Kennedy said...

Thanks J - that's good advice (I tried to get into the mindfulness thing last year - it makes a lot of sense - still struggle to do it, though). And although I'm not religious, I do try to 'give thanks' for what I have. You only have to look at the news for five seconds to see how blessed you really are!

Happy New Year - hope all's good with you & yours <:0) x

Corina H. said...

Happy New Year, Spence, and follow what the physio tells you! I had problems for year, and didn't listen to PT and doctor, until it got so bad I had to be off for a month and do the PT!I also aggravated it just by bending over to clean the cat boxes! Those cats! Get well soon!

Spence Kennedy said...

Thanks Corina. I'm being very good and doing the stretches - although it kills me every time (man-talk for hurts a bit). I get to certain points in the day when I suddenly realise my back's really painful - and then remember I haven't taken the painkillers. D'oh.

Anyway - the prognosis is good, so I've just got to weather the next few weeks. Damn kitten. Cute as he is. Look at him - cleaning himself innocently like nothing ever happened. Why you little...

Happy New Year, Corina. Hope it's a good 2015 for you & your family.

Lynda Halliger Otvos (Lynda M O) said...

Oh boy, Spence, I hope you're on the mend. SUffer with chronic low back pain myself from old injury-not fun and certainly activity-reducing when it flares.

Happy 2k15, may each step we take lead the way to Peace.

Spence Kennedy said...

Feeling a lot better, thanks Lynda. I've been very good about doing the exercises &c, so all's well. Back at work - light duties for a couple of weeks.

Happy New Year, Lynda. I hope it's a good one for you & your family.

Blair Ivey said...

I have sympathy for you. Diagnosed with herniated disks L4/L5 in my mid-20's. Literally could not sit down for a year; the sciatica was that bad. Surgeon gave me the option of conventional treatment for $10,000 or laser surgery for $15,000 with no guarantee (it might get worse). I didn't have surgery.

For several years I'd limp after car trips or flights, but the body heals, and now I engage in strenous activity with no effect.

Spence Kennedy said...

So it sounds like it was probably a good idea you didn't go for surgery, Blair - even the laser variety, which always sounds impressive. Did they also offer to minimise a crew of orthopaedic surgeons to ride in a tiny submarine and attack the discs with micro-tyre levers? ($40,000).

Good to hear it finally healed up on its own. I'll take comfort from that, esp. today, with my back so darn sore n'all - despite all the stretches. Someone was recommending 'hot yoga', which I think is basically normal yoga in a sauna. Hopefully in a specially adapted towel.