Aardy R. DeVarque (aardy) wrote,
Aardy R. DeVarque

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Bad back! No back bacon for you!

Last night, sometime after dinner and before I went to bed, I developed some severe lower back pain. Starting in a spot at the upper left of my pelvis and radiating to both sides, and shooting down my leg a la sciatica. I don't recall lifting anything heavier than the baby or anything else that might've caused it.

Normally, when this happens, I know the exact cause (me doing something stupid like lifting something heavy with my back rather than my knees), and I can take some acetaminophen or ibuprofen, stretch out the kinks enough to lay flat, slap a cold pack under me (heat makes the pain last longer), and I'm fine enough to completely control the pain with OTC meds the next day or two and the pain subsides completely after that. (The last time it happened was about two weeks ago, after hefting leaf bags into the wheelbarrow first to be stored in the shed until trash day, then to be hauled out to the street.)

Not this time. Tylenol & a cold pack only took a little bit of the edge off, and it was worse this morning than last night. It hurt just to try to lay flat, and rolling to one side or the other was excruciating, but when I managed to get rolled, I could stay like that. When I got out of bed, I couldn't stand up straight, and walking was nearly impossible--I could only accomplish it when bent over forward, taking tiny steps, and being very careful about putting weight on my left leg because despite my best intentions, it would partially give way as soon as I moved in such a way that would cause pain. (Honestly, I'd rather be able to walk normally and just feel the pain; I know pain, and can generally cope with pain. Having my body basically not move the way I want it to is much worse.)

kateshort talked enough sense into me for me to call in sick to work and for her to take me to the ER. I double-checked that the closest one to me is a preferred care provider for my insurance (which generally isn't all that great, and which I've striven to avoid ever using--and haven't until now), and we headed out to the car. Just getting into the car (and then out again on the other end) was difficult, between the pain the body simply not moving in certain directions.

We arrived sometime around 9:30 AM. I got preliminarily checked in (name, vitals, and what's ailing you), took up their offer of a wheelchair (after being prompted by kateshort to accept), and got wheeled over to the waiting area. After a long while of waiting with NO ONE'S names being called, kateshort decided to head over to her weekly breastfeeding mothers' group, which meets elsewhere in the same building. That turned out to be for the best, as I didn't get called until noon, which is when her group gets out.

In the meantime, I read most of The Magic Engineer by J.E. Modesitt, Jr. (for the second time; good fantasy book with an interesting take on the forces of law/order and chaos as the basis of magic, 3rd in a series but easily stands alone), and tried to avoid listening to an episode of the Maury Povich show that basically consisted of a half-hour of bleeps with a few airable words interspersed here and there. (Final upshot: He indeed was the baby's daddy.) Before the next episode came on ("He already has 25 kids, is this his 26th?"), one of the nurses switched the TV over to CNN-Headline News, which made it much easier to sit and read.

As the morning went on, and the waiting continued, and my morning dose of Tylenol wore off, the wheelchair got more and more uncomfortable. I just couldn't find a way to sit that would both support my back and let me relax and take the pressure off.

After I got called and wheeled back to the "non-life-threatening" wing of the actual ER, they mostly finished the checkin process (address, insurance, next of kin, etc.), issued me a backless gown (which I ended up having to tie shut myself; thank goodness I can reach every part of my back with both hands and that the current pain doesn't affect my arms), and let me wait until the physician assistant on duty had time to see me. Which wasn't too long, but in a backless gown in the chilly ER and unable to recline or do anything other than sit sideways on the bed and read, it felt like much longer.

The PA checked me out, determined that my reflexes were good and that external pressure didn't hurt, and ordered a urinalysis (because of the proximity of the pain to my kidney) and an X-ray. She also ordered up a shot of pain killer (I don't remember exactly what; not a drug name I'd heard before--starts with a T). Then while they finished up the checkin process, a nurse gave me the shot. (She said there'd be some "burning," but it didn't feel any different from the pressure I felt from the multitude of allergy shots I got back in my teens.) Then I got wheeled over to the bathroom to pee in a cup and wheeled back to my curtained area.

Shortly after this, kateshort showed up-- as did the radiation tech to wheel me over to the X-ray room. She took a series of 5 shots--laying flat, rolled 45 degrees to the right, rolled 45 degrees to the left, and two rolled 90 degrees to the left. It was so cold in the room that I couldn't help shivering and twitching; I hoped that that wouldn't blur the shots.

After being wheeled back, the waiting began again. According to a handy chart on the wall of the room, urinalysis takes about 45 minutes for results, and x-rays take about 60 minutes for results. During the next hour and a bit, I listened to the PA try to deal with the patient behind the next curtain, who spoke only Polish, by getting a Polish interpreter on speakerphone and trying to explain things to the interpreter when the ER phone kept ringing, and there were constant calls for various doctors over the public address system. (Apparently, he'd gotten a finger caught in some sort of press at work, broken the bone right under the cuticle of his nail, and needed stitches and had to follow up with a doctor in the next day or two.)

A bit after 2 PM, the PA came in to tell me that the urinalysis results were fine, and the x-rays likewise didn't show any problems. She said I seemed to have a lower back strain, wrote me prescriptions for 600 mg ibuprofen tablets and flexeril (muscle relaxant), told me to arrange a followup appointment with a general physician in the next day or two, told me to alternate between sitting and standing (and leaning?) about every 20-30 minutes or so, and got me discharged.

kateshort then drove us over to the local CVS to drop off the prescriptions, and hit the drivethrough of the Wendy's in the same parking lot for some lunch while we waited for the prescriptions to be filled. Then we went home, getting there a bit after 3 PM, at which point she felt like the day had flown by, and I (after reading probably 300-some pages of my book while trying to sit up ramrod straight for almost 6 hours) felt like time had been standing still for most of the day.

I just took the first of the ibuprofen, and I'll take a flexeril before bed. I've already called in to work to take tomorrow off. With any luck, having good meds in my system will help the pain subside enough in day or two that I can drive to the meeting I'm supposed to be at on Wednesday morning (if so, I'll probably take Wednesday afternoon off anyways), and to work on Thursday & Friday.

And on top of everything else, the doctor-ordered limit of how much I can current lift is the same as the baby's weight. So I'm specifically allowed to hold her, but nothing more than that.

What a great start to the week...

Feudalism: Serf & Turf
Tags: er, pain

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