Sunday, October 26, 2014

Sunday Stroke Survival~ Oh My Aching Back

Everyone has an issue with their back from time to time. Either they "slept wrong" or "twisted it," or lifted something heavier than they should have without help. Sometimes even with help you get a tingling or pain that runs down your legs or up your back, or centers in your hip area.

You'll see little, old ladies stomping their foot on the ground trying to get it to stop. Notice in the picture the sciatic nerve runs in the foot also. But sciatica is not just for old folks like me, it strikes young folk too. When your back hurts and runs down your legs or travels along the path of the sciatic nerve, it called sciatica.

Most times, the occasional bout of sciatica is not a problem and short lived. It's when the problem is chronic that poses infinite possibilities of the cause. The sciatic nerve is a long one. When you do everything the specialist tells you and you are in pain weeks later after the offense.

That's what happened to me. After my helicopter mishap and my lower sciatic and half of my lower lumbar spine was crushed, rebuilt and fused, and rods put in place to stabilize it. I developed hip pain in my replaced hip.

At first I just thought I was overworking my prosthesis. I had gone back to nursing again. This time in a hospital in the post-surgical floor. With my limitations, working on choppers and ambulances was out of the question. I went to work after teaching 20 kindergarten children for eight hours and had to look forward to an eight-hour shift on the floor. Nothing unusual about that for me at the time.

The pain increased over time for about a month. I swore to myself to be kinder to my body. But with five kids at home/school and two full-time jobs, it was nearly impossible. I made a point of sitting correctly. I did my back and hip exercises as I was supposed to, but still the pain persisted becoming nonstop.

One night, the pain became unbearable. I limped and hobbled through my shift, and barely made it home without screaming out. Needless to say, I called my family doctor the first chance I got. I couldn't work like this at either job or care for my family. Both my legs had gone from tingling pain like they were asleep to lava flowing. I could barely take a step without my pain level jumping to an eight out of ten. I was not a happy camper at all.

An x-ray showed boney fragments from my spine were pressing against my sciatic nerve was. A "Hoover Vacuum" type surgery was needed to remove them to stop my pain. No, a Hoover was not used in the surgery. It's just what I called it to differentiate it from my previous procedure. My doctor was surprised I walked into his office. If I chose not to have the surgery, I was facing being permanently in a wheelchair within five years with permanent damage. So I hopped a flight to Atlanta for the procedure. Keep in mind, I was only thirty something.

The cause was degenerative disc disease. Another strong hereditary factor gone berserk. Aren't I the lucky one. If I had not had accident it might have shown up sooner or later, but the sciatic and lower lumbar had been concreted together five years prior. Now it was the upper lumbar affected and the pieces migrated down with gravity like everything else as you age. The surgery was a success pain wise, but a failure in that the nerve was damaged and I lost all sensation from the knees down. It took two years for the nerves to heal. I started getting quarter sized patches of sensation back and now only spots about the size of a quarter still remain numb. The procedure is repeated every decade or so to remove the disc fragments before they become trouble again. It's that time again but now we are in the thoracic and neck regions of the spine, but we are delaying the procedure for as long as I can. But then, what impairment is caused by the disc fragments or the stroke. It's a juggle to decide.

Now decades later, I have a stroke. The doctors all say that I was lucky not to lose sensation as well as paralysis. But I don't know. Of the two, the loss of sensation was easier to deal with. With sensation loss you just have to be aware of the position of the affected body part, but you still have movement. That just takes a quick glance and a little focused effort. With the paralysis, there is no movement. But then...

Nothing is impossible with determination.


  1. I had sciatica when I was younger so I began doing my back stretches in bed while I was still in rehab.


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