Years of Back Torment

I have to go back to 1975. I had just joined the Army and was undergoing training. We used to have the dreaded room inspections.  Our rooms had to be spotless and the floor had to be polished to a mirror finish. We were told that the way to stop any damage to the floor we should put blankets on the floor for us to walk on, thus stopping rubber marks from our boots.  Hence, I walked into the room, put a foot down and before I knew it, I was doing somersaults. This led to the start of my years of torment.

This was going to affect my life and mar my Army career.  I had damaged my lower spine, was taken in to the army hospital and given bed rest. I started having problems with tenderness in the lower back and shooting pain down one leg.  I went to the Army doctor and was told that I had bruised my back and it would settle down.

I worked along with this problem for the full 12 years I was in the Army. I spent time in hospital being given treatments that were meant to be good for you at the time.

One of these treatments was a course of epidural injections directly to the pain spot. This was done in a Army hospital in Germany. I had to drive for 1 hour to get to the hospital was put in a ward with other soldiers who were suffering the same. The doctor came around and started to go to each patient and give each one a epidural. Once I had mine, I was numb from the waist down.

I was left for a hour or so, then discharged to make my way back to my unit driving and numb. On getting to my unit, I had to carry on with normal duties. This procedure went on for a few months, but once the epidural wore off, the pain came back, increasing every time.

This really blighted my army life, as it made me more withdrawn. I wouldn't join the other work mates in any sport activities and chose an easier way of working. This led to me having to change my way of being a soldier and take a job within the catering side of Army life.

On leaving the Army in 1988, I took up work and found it hard to settle down untilI  took a job working for the prison service. By now, it was 1991 and I was still having problems with my back. At this stage, the pain was becoming unbearable. My whole mood towards others had changed, more snappy and rude and showing no interest in anyone.

It took until 1993 to have my first surgery to do some work on my back and remove the offending disk. Straight away, I was pain-free and ready to take on the world. At this time, with forethought, I should have started to do so. This didn't last long and once again I was back to the pain, but this time generating down both legs.

My work suffered and in 1995, I had to succumb to the pain and stop working. I had gone from a fit, active, friendly person in a matter of years to a Mr. Hyde style of person.

Then came operation #2. I was unable to walk and the pain was in the scale of 100 out of 100 and getting worse. For a whole 6 months, I was unable to walk or sit at all. I could  lie on the floor in the front room, not to mention the problems with my bodily functions that didn't work correctly.

Operations #3/4 were to follow in quick succession of each other with no help whatsoever. Operation #5 took place in 2004. This got me back on to my feet, though still in considerable pain.

I started to get my life back. I worked my pain to live with me. I went to a spinal hospital and did a pain management course that helped greatly. I started to take up painting as a way of relaxing and by doing this, I have managed to escape for a short period of time, so much so that I have started to go to different groups and do demonstrations on using art to help relax and help the pain.

I also have walking difficulties. However, I have used this to good cause by doing 3 long-term sponsored disabled walks. 2 for 23/30 days each way and a 40 day walk around the coastline. These walks would take a normal fit active person 3 to 4 days to complete but with me, it's different. I have to limit my distance to up to 5 miles on any walking day and allow for the days that I know I wont be able to do anything and days that I would stop and produce paintings of the area.

All this and still dealing with the constant pain in my back legs and head. I stopped smoking and have been training over the past 18 months for my 35 day Disabled Trike Ride 1st May to 5th June 2011. Once again, I am restricted to distance, but no real time limit.

I have been to Hell, stayed in Hell and have started to find my way back to a realistic life . It's not the point of living with the pain, but taming it and making it live with you helps greatly.

I know that this is not the end to my problems and making the wrong move or turn could leave me back in the chair, but I will get to that if it happens. I am not pain-free and only wish I was.

I have spent thousands of £ on things to help me, adaptations, gadgets, medication, acupuncture, but never any banned drug. I have been on every pain relief contraption hanging upside down, weighted down, being pulled, stretched, injected, all to no avail. But maybe one day. How many times have we all said that?

I have been low and the lowest point for me was being driven by the pain to get the ultimate relief, but chickened out at the last moment and sought help with that part of things. I was very angry at the way I was treated in the first accident. Had the Army doctor looked and got someone able to deal with my back, I am sure the outcome would have been better.

Another way of helping is to fill the bath with as much hot hot water as you can stand and lie there for a hour or so then slowly run cold water in to the bath. This relaxing feeling of the cold water running under the hot water as it works up your body is amazing, but remember you have to get back out of the bath and face things again. Thank you. Richard

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