The spasms roughly rouse me from deep sleep. Hard aches from hip to foot, tingling, numb, no ease. This is a quantum difference from the previous discomfort, and I know I'll be calling to see my doctor when the office opens, now truly afraid I've left it too long.
D walks me over. Walking is tricky, but I could not compass the thought of a cab, and it really isn't far. I have a very good primary care physician. She is utterly professional and sympathetic, and immediately gets the ortho PA to come look at me. He gives me an anatomy lesson, verdict - herniated disc. Sometimes they heal, listen to the pain, steroid injections are... I stop him. Can we just start there? Yes, yes indeed. MRI scheduled for that day, injection tomorrow. More than a little confusion about where the imaging place is. Sent to the wrong office, use all our available cash ($5) on the cab to there. Office staff confused, then gives useless directions to the right place, the slot I can have if I can be there at one.
Directions, maps even, in Boston, need to be very clear. Three rights do not make a left. We walk, me carefully, but determined, flames of electricity dogging my steps. We collar a woman in postal uniform, eating a take-away salad. She gives better directions than the office staff did. A panicky, late to get into my precious slot, in the hotting up sun, stagger into the less than obvious place, five minutes late. They are kind and professional, and take us in. I toss a strawberry candy from their basket at D, who is hungry and fading, but steadfast, and reading Thud!
Shoes off, shorts with metal zipper off, scrub pants on, watch to D, I pad in and lie down as instructed.
"Are you claustrophobic?"
"Good, that'll help."
Pillow under my head and knees. She gives me earphones and slides me into the narrow white oven... um, machine. She tells me to lie very still. The earphones are playing commercials at me, for the National Guard - I roll my eyes at my tunnel ceiling, then I hear Elton John promoting this NICE soft rock station, and cringe. After she finishes with instructions and a last "You ok?" I reach down and kink the tube with one hand, and listen to the whirrs and rhythmic thunks, whines and chugging of the machine, and try to decide if I can feel the magnetism. Wondering if that in itself is a kind of treatment. I am utterly still, this is cake, easiest pose I ever had, and I've held harder ones longer. I relax and let it happen. I close my eyes, because the space is really small.
I am born easily, pulling my arms in slightly. She helps me sit up.
I clutch my large envelope of MRI films that I will need to take with me in the morning. We take a short walk to the train station, with good directions this time. D sits and reads, I pace and enjoy the breeze. Four trains go the wrong way, then one our way marked "No service." We catch the next one, and get off at Fenway. Something jogs the envelope from my grip and it is lying on the track. I lurch down and grab it, keeping the door open so the train won't start up. Hugging the films.... I don't know how it feels to be struck by lightening, but... I am crouching on the asphalt platform as the train pulls away. I stagger to the iron fence and grab it and gasp, sob wretchedly as the whole body explodes in sparks, and I try to breathe through the involuntary wracking tears. I wonder now if anyone was watching, wondering what the hell was going on with me.
On that 1-10 pain scale, I have a new 10. D stands beside me, helpless, but present. I grab his shoulder and use him to walk. My body is in that limb-went-to-sleep-and-is-now-waking-painfully zinging. Tears pour, I breathe and walk as near normal as I can, and the pain fades to a manageable say 8/10. D my crutch, my rock. He settles me home, then gets good pizza for our long overdue lunch.
Sleep is elusive and as the unblunted force penetrates rest. No drugs, no anti-inflammatories allowed this night. I am up at 4, needing to move, unable to move much. D gets me dressed, underwear and socks, shoes and shorts all beyond my ability. I'd have looked silly and gotten arrested just in a t-shirt.
I walk over, D waits at home for a package at my insistence. I can walk, the one movement left me that eases. I walk on a leg with an electrical short, but it works. He will come over when I am finished to bring me home. I sign in, and am offered a seat. I find a Metro and read leaning against a wall, wriggly as a kindergartner. I go for the x-ray, remove all but the irreplaceable underwear and socks, and don a large burgundy gown. The x-ray table is hard, the tech helps, but there is no comfort for me.
I manage to replace the shorts, but the left shoe is just slipped on, laces hanging. More waiting, more leaning, pacing the halls, careful not to trip myself. I watch a woman tie her husband's shoes, apparently post procedure. I smile in recognition. After a small eternity, my name is called.
A lovely young woman with impressive dreadlocks manages to check vital signs without requiring me to sit. The doc, an anesthesiologist enters, points out the herniation on the MRI, and another, and another very small one. Has me sit on the exam table, feet on a chair, and palpates my back as I endure. I am usually on the other side of this, I am the holder, I face the patient and urge them on, reassure and coach. My coach asks me to keep my eyes open to watch me. I do. I feel like an over-tight band about to snap, but I know the position, I open my spine and eat the agony.
"She's clamping down on me."
"Not your fault."
I can do something about it though. I breathe yoga, and force myself down until the heels of my hands are on the arms of the chair. He makes success sounds, warns me that I will feel the meds go in. Pain spent now for better result after, oh, yeah, whatever it costs.
"You don't smoke, do you?" After a comment about the last patient who does. They can tell.
I fear implosion, as hot lead squeezes down my butt, thigh, legs, then knives with the "Lidocaine chaser."
"Can I move?"
"Just wait a moment... Ok, the needle is out. You can move."
I let my left foot slide off the chair, and close my spine. They compliment me on my cooperation, approve of my general health and that I walked there. My face is wet with quiet tears. I retrieve my films, get my instructions, D arrives and we gingerly wince home.
D opens the expected box. It is the DVD player for the TV, for distraction for me. I enter the world of Tom and Barbara Good. He remembers when I got him High Noon and The Cheap Detective the night he broke his arm. He feeds me, and worries. I try to be brave and not whine too much. I go about the work of healing.
Labels: love story, pain