Most everyone knows that I was in a car accident in March 2005 where I was rear-ended and sustained severe whiplash. I have suffered a lot ever since. I went through painful physical therapy and a lengthy and emotional lawsuit, which I won out of court shortly after returning home from our honeymoon. I have had relapse after relapse with pain in my neck and right shoulder and arm. In May 2006, I went for an MRI, which showed a bulging disc between my C4 and C5 vertebrae. Every time it has come back to haunt me, it has been painful but I never as bad as my recent experiences.
Last Friday, I was quickly getting ready for work. Rushing around frantically, already late with a wrinkled shirt in my hands. I reached up to the top shelf in our laundry room to grab the iron and set up our ironing board. As I was ironing, I noticed the common stiffness in my neck. I thought to myself, “No, no, not again.” I recognized the pain instantly but put it aside in my hurriedness.
Halfway to work I realized I should have turned around. My range of motion in my neck was already gone and I put myself and everyone else on the road at risk when this happens. But it was so inconvenient and such bad timing, with a big event coming up at work and I in charge of an important design project, I ignored the warning signs and continued on.
By noon, I knew I had to leave work early. I could barely stand the pain of sitting at my desk. It seemed like a different, more sharp and pinpointed pain. I told my supervisor that I had to leave and I went home to the rescue of one of my many muscle relaxer bottles.
By nightfall, I was in agony. Strewn out helplessly upon my bed, crying and uncomfortable no matter which position I picked. Pleading internally not to let this “episode” last too long. But my fears were confirmed. It was different.
I awoke the next morning not even able to raise my chin without excruciating pain. It is not something I can even describe. All I know is that when I made a movement, I felt as if I would throw up. Naaman, the wonderful nurse and husband that he is, would lay a towel out just in case I did throw up. Even breathing hurt and I couldn’t understand how this could have happened. I didn’t do anything. Nothing out of the ordinary. No over-activity to the area.
We went to urgent care and my regular doc just happened to be in. He told me that I was just having an abnormally “bad” muscle spasm and prescribed Valium as a muscle relaxant. I went home knowing it wasn’t going to work.
By Sunday all Hell had broken loose. I cried, hyperventilated, cried some more. Nothing relieved the pain. Not hydrocodone, not flexeril, not skelaxin, not valium. Nothing worked to relieve any of my pain. I just laid in bed, helplessly clinging to my motionless body. Telling myself not to move. That it would be better tomorrow. But it wasn’t better.
We called my doc back on Tuesday morning letting him know that there had been no relief and that the pain was increasing not decreasing. He recommended that I see an Orthopedic Specialist. After Naaman had worked a 12 hour overnight shift, he would come home to take care of me with no sleep in between. He spent hours trying to get a hold of any doctor that could see me on short notice. None of them could. He told me he couldn’t see me like this anymore. And he hauled me into the car once more and took me straight to the emergency room at St. Luke’s East.
We got in right away. The doctor was great and came in very quickly to see me. He assessed the area and said that my bulging disc had slipped out further and begun pressing on my spinal cord and nerves causing extreme pain in my neck, right shoulder and shooting pain and tingling down my right are. He decided to give me stronger pain meds, an anti-inflammatory and referred me to the KC Pain Center, where I would speak to a specialist about my pain and how to get rid of it once and for all.
The pain meds prescribed didn’t work at all that night, even after taking two of these pills that are commonly given to cancer patients, I still felt no relief and made it through the night with lots of crying and pain. Naaman was gone at work all night and I ached for him to be there because looking at him, I know that he sees much worse every night, but still treats me like I’m his most important patient of all. He always lies beside me and brushes my hair away while I’m crying and talking jibberish on my pain meds.
It is now Wednesday. I woke up and tried to take a shower. Naaman got home from work, slept two hours and then woke back up to take me to the pain center without a single complaint. I was scared, but felt some relief knowing that I might finally figure out how to get rid of some of my pain. It takes 30 minutes of waiting but I finally get in. I see Dr. Israel. He is serious about his job but you can tell that he cares. He can instantly see that I have been in agony for five straight days and tries to make me laugh. I tell him not to because it hurts. He says I have to have epidural shots, which will send cortizone to the area and get the disc back in place so it stops pressing on my nerves.
I hate shots, I hate needles. I hate anything and everything that has to do with hospitals and I almost immediately start crying. Dr. Israel can tell I am scared and nervous. Naaman says there’s nothing to worry about. But I don’t want a huge needle going into my neck, headed toward my spine. But I have to be strong. I have to do it.
I go into a room, without Naaman because they won’t let him be there with me. I’m already crying. I lay face down with my chest held up by pillows and my face and nose pressed into the bed. I can hear the doctor comes in. He tells the nurse that I am very nervous and to hold my hand. I grab onto it. Probably too tight. I can feel the tears running up my cheeks and forhead because of the way I am laying. But I just cry silently. He leads me through it, puts the needle to my cold skin and tells me I’ll feel pressure, but if I feel pain to let him know.
The needle goes in and I can’t catch my breath. All of a sudden my right arm is pulsating. I swear there are rocks in my arm swirling around and I tell him it hurts. He asked, “Does it hurt, or does it just feel like pressure?” I correct myself, “No, just pressure.” I feel noises, like someone is knocking on the back of my neck. It is over before I know it.
I am put in a waiting room for 20 minutes because my blood pressure shot up too high and it has to come back down. They tell me lots of things. If I get a headache, lie flat and drink lots of caffeine. I will feel pain, pressure and numbness in other areas besides my neck and shoulder but don’t worry.
I go home. Almost instantly get a headache so Naaman rushes to get me some coffee. I try to sleep but the pain is coming on strong. I’m watching American Idol, hopped up on some pain meds that aren’t working. Suddenly, I don’t feel my legs. My legs are both numb. Then my arms fade away. I can’t feel either my legs nor my arms. They stay numb all night. They are numb, but my shoulder is alive and kicking. It’s bad. The pain is so bad. I cry for a while, then sleep for a half hour. I have a full blown “This is never going to get any better” tantrum with Naaman calmly listening to every word right by side as usual. I don’t sleep well at all.
It’s Thursday, and I awake. I’m scared to move. I am hoping my legs haven’t turned purple and fallen off. But I can feel them now. And I can feel my arms too. I can feel my whole body. It’s rough at first. Naaman gives me the anti-inflammatory, but if I’m going into work I can’t take my heavy pain meds. Advil will have to do, which it won’t of course.
I hop in the shower and I’m praying that it will loosen up. It does. I feel a little better. I feel a little better now. The doctor said it would get worse before it would get better. I made it through a rough half-day of work. It still hurts and I still have the sharp pains, but not as much. The epidural worked. I go back for another in two weeks and then another two weeks after that. I hate it. But if it works so be it. I want to get better. I want to dance, hug my husband, hold my puppy, play outside in the warmer weather. I want to get better and not have to have this pain again.
I want to thank my husband. He is the greatest man I have ever known. His love is so real and shows me what “unconditional” really means. He helped feed me, raise me up to take a drink, give me my medicine, hold me while I’m crying, told me I’m beautiful when I’m clearly anything but. He is my one true love. I don’t think I could make it without him. Thank you, my love.