One Doctor to Another

This is an 18 year long journey in my life, which affected my children and husband in many ways. I am so very grateful to have a loving and supportive family. I am one not to complain and will go to great lengths to make sure my loved ones are spared my pain. I missed out on a lot of physical activities that my husband took my children to experience. But in all these years I have pushed myself with an inner drive to experience as much as I could with my family.

It all started in 1991 when I was stretching in the shower. As I stood up I screamed in pain and luckily passed out in my husband's arms. I woke up and couldn't move because of the pain. He managed to get me to the emergency room where I was hospitalized for a week with traction. What a nightmare! The nurses didn't want anything to do with me. They treated me like a plague. They mentioned that I couldn't possibly be in this kind of pain. The doctor ordered an MRI, which showed an L5 impingement.

I was sent home with a physical therapy regiment. I was able to control my pain through walking and exercise. I had always been a person to run and walk on a regular basis, however, when I did go home walking down the street was one of the hardest things I had experienced. Every step was painful.

I managed to make it eight years until I restrained one of my students. I had to drag him to the office before he seriously injured another student. I felt the strain my back but the indescribable pain didn't come until later that night. I had never experienced this kind of pain in my life. The pain generated from my lower back into my leg and foot. Everything I tried didn't minimize the pain. I cried through the night. My husband took me to the ER where I sat for four hours in a chair. As you know sitting is one of the worst things they could have done for a back patient. My husband finally convinced them to find a bed for me. When the doctor finally came in he dismissed my pain and sent me home with a mild pain reliever and muscle relaxant. No tests were done or past history taken into account. I was misdiagnosed and treated terribly. I couldn't believe how this doctor treated me.

The next week I visited a family practice doctor. I was referred to doctor after doctor, spinal injection after injection, physical therapy, traction, expensive orthotics, chiropractic care, massage therapy, rest and drugs. Nothing was helping me. I finally gave up on the medical field. I walked and stretched as much as I could and went to work with a smile on my face as I taught my students, however, I went home in unbearable pain. Sleepless nights became frequent and the pain wouldn't go away. I would have months where I could control it, however, this time it wasn't going away.

I finally went to a new family practice doctor for hip pain since my hip was really giving me fits. X-rays were taken and nothing was found, I was referred to a new chiropractor again. Nothing changed. I was finally referred to a neurologist. (We were a traveling family due to being in the military) I was skeptical after this was neurologist number four. All other ones told me I would have to live with my pain. You only understand pain if you have been through pain yourself. Doctors just don't get that concept. I wish all doctors watched the movie "The Doctor" with William Hurt in it. Maybe we would have more compassionate doctors.

With my skepticism in place I visited the neurologist. He seemed to listen to me and put me on a new regiment of drugs and referred me to a pain doctor. Reluctantly I went as I knew what this would entail - injections and remedying my drug regiment. He convinced me to try a new anti-depressant that was supposed to redirect pain. Oddly enough each time the nurse called me she asked how my mood was, not my pain. Of course I answered that my mood was fine but my pain was not. I also agreed to try two injections, which neither gave me relief. I also underwent an EEG, which sent me into uncontrollable crying. My pain in my right leg before the EEG was horrific and the EEG made it worse. My pain was like taking the heel of a shoe and digging it into your foot without letting up. The doctors didn't know what to do with me.

I looked straight at the doctor and asked him when was conservative treatment enough? He told me that they didn't want to rush with surgery and wanted to make sure conservative treatment had been done. I looked at him again and stated that eighteen years wasn't enough conservative treatment? I was told eighteen years that it would get better in a few weeks. What was wrong with me? Do you really think I have wanted to be in pain for this long? I had raised two children and my children only knew their mom with pain. He directed me to the pain doctor who works in the same office. He walked in, and I pleaded with him to help me. I had NO quality of life. He convinced me to try one more injection. I scheduled this final injection and prayed this one would work. I had faith in this doctor. He truly was trying to help me. The day of the injection I looked at him before undergoing the injection and told him "Let's do it!" Indicating I felt confident that he could make it happen. I had built a rapport with this doctor and knew he would help me one way or another. I asked him not to give up on me.

Weeks after the injection I visited my pain doctor again and we sat down briefly and looked at the next step since the injection didn't take. I told him straight up that I couldn't live like this anymore --sleepless nights and continuous pain. As I have read over the years on blogs, I read that someone related this pain to being married to it. I agree. It controls every facet of your life. I had an appointment with a highly recommended neurosurgeon. I am not new to neurosurgeons, as I had brain surgery 18 years ago. I know a good bedside manner when I see one. He seemed compassionate and right to the point. He stated that there are so many people that have been diagnosed with my condition - L5 bulge with a possible impingement with classic signs of impingement. I was a candidate for a successful surgery. He said he has helped many people like me. He asked when I wanted him to do the surgery. We scheduled it for the next Wed.

I had waited 18 years for someone to state that I could be helped - not maybe I could be helped. This doctor was known for successful surgeries and was using the latest techniques with the least invasive techniques as possible - take the lamina out and shave the disc without cutting the muscle. I was in the hospital one night and home the next day for 7 weeks before returning to work. I am back to work and doing much better. I am still in the healing process but I am now experiencing hip pain, and I have off and on pressure in my right leg and foot, but I am not in horrible pain. I am concerned with the hip pain as it is different than what I had experienced earlier. If its not one thing its another.

The doctor's nurse tells me that I am still healing and back to work doing more activity than I had in the last eight weeks. I am going to give it time and patience. With all this said, am I glad I opted to have surgery? Yes, because I was at a point of no return. I was desperate to be out of the pain I experienced for 18 years. Did I rush into it? Not a chance. I just kept searching for the right doctor(s) who seemed knowledgeable, compassionate, and were seasoned in their professions. The optimism in all of this? I woke up after surgery with no pain at all. I relish this fact that this was a good sign and now it will take time for my body to get better. I will never forget the spasms my nerve did after surgery. The nerve didn't know what to do after being pinched for 18 years. It was almost like it was telling me it was finally free. It sounds strange, but it makes sense. I would love for my nerve to tell its story to the doctors who didn't listen to its plight of being pinched all these years and was finally freed.

I have an unbelievable sense of freedom myself. I feel like a new person even during this healing process. I am walking three miles at least three to four times a week with very little pain. I have and feel more discomfort when I am sitting or doing more activity that strains my back than I do walking. I have much to celebrate. I smile more and know I can look at new obtainable goals in my life with minimal pain. I now plan to go back to college and get my Masters degree. For those of you who are still struggling with terrible pain keep searching for the right doctor who has a true understanding of having pain and spent his career trying to understand and help those with this pain.

Does surgery take away and make everything right? Yes and no. Go into surgery with realistic expectations. Once they cut you can't go back, however, you need to ask yourself what are you willing to give up to get something else. Good luck to those who are still looking for that quick fix. Just remember nothing is quick when you are talking about your body. Be patient and be willing to work through the pain if you have surgery. A good attitude will go a long way in your recovery. - Janelle

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