Well, since my medical maladies seem to be the best fodder for blog posts (and because it's been entirely too long since I actually sat down to blog), I thought I'd share my most recent venture into the medical world with y'all.
About twelve or so weeks ago, I started experiencing muscle spasms in my back...not those little things that you feel from time to time when a muscle trembles and you say, "Hey...look at what my arm, finger, leg, etc is doing!" These spasms would literally suck the breath out of my body, and all I could do was lie as still as humanly possible until they faded. If you're a Harry Potter fan, imagine someone walking into your bedroom and performing the cruciatus curse on your very unsuspecting self. It was so painful that I wanted to push Susan out of the bed just for moving around while I was all contorted! One morning, (okay...more than one morning) I had to actually have her help me out of bed; on the worst day, I put a pair of her clean socks in my mouth to keep from grinding my teeth as I moved into the sitting position.
I did the chiropractic thing as well as the general practitioner thing (hoping for an ortho referral), and while I was introduced to the wonderful "I literally could NOT care less about anything" muscle relaxer state, it took nearly eight weeks for the muscles to stop spasming. So, when I finally stopped playing what seemed like an imaginary game of freeze tag (the looks I received from the general public were pretty hilarious!), I thought things were okay. Now, I've had a fairly sizable kidney stone (8 mm to be exact...that's a great story about a string of pearls, a very pregnant Susan, a nearly naked me, and almost enough morphine to stop my ability to breathe...but perhaps another time!), and that monster scarred me for life. Once you experience that kind of pain, you're always, and I mean ALWAYS, aware of any type of symptom that remotely resembles it. This cruciatus curse back pain was just like that...I'll never ignore back pain again, especially when it made me feel like Ripley from the movie Alien.
So, last week, I noticed this awful pain in my upper back that seemed to somehow be connected to my sternum and upper back at the same time. And then...my arm started hurting and eventually went numb through my elbow on down to my last three fingers. Of course I "WebMDed" my symptoms...who doesn't before dropping a co-pay. Since the pain mirrored what some people feel when they're having a heart attack, naturally, I called my doctor...a day or so after it started (insert exasperated comments from my wife and mother...and coworkers). My general practitioner was convinced that I had pulled another muscle and it was pinching a nerve. I don't even pretend to know how that would work, but it sounded kind of stupid to me. She sent me to physical therapy, and that's precisely where I spent two hours this afternoon. Here's how it played out...
Of course I had to use my iPhone to map the doctor's office; I mean...I barely make it to and from work without getting lost. On the way, I changed lanes in front of a Jacksonville police officer, and because I had way too many (seriously...dangerously close to losing my license) tickets in college, my mind went to that place of perfect paranoia. He turned behind me on the next two streets...then he turned in at the same doctor's office...so, if I weren't already stressed enough about having to deal with a new doctor, this added stress of the PoPo following me to physical therapy wasn't helping. When I got out, he pulled out of the parking lot and just left. Obviously, my wife, mother, and/or coworkers ordered a police escort to the doctor...that should tell you how much I love to go.
Since the people there were exceptionally nice, I won't identify the office, but in my best Sophia Petrillo voice...Picture it...my physical therapist's office...2013...I walk through the front door, and the whole place smells like a grandma's house...a grandma who doesn't clean regularly. I sat in an uncomfortable chair (this only helped aggravate my neck...that's a good thing, too, since I hate seeing a doctor when my symptoms have gone!) and I waited. The wait wasn't too long; actually, it was just long enough for me to notice the little dust bunnies hanging from a really old drapery, two different types of laminate flooring in the waiting room, and an odd and mildly offensive food smell. As I was called back, I overheard a conversation about a new chili recipe that explained the nasty food smell...note to the office worker: large cloves of garlic weren't necessary.
A nice office worker deposited me in a room and proceeded to explain to me that changes in healthcare coverage likely meant that I would be responsible for a large deductible and then 20% of each subsequent visit. In my mind, all I heard was, "Hey...you're about to have to fork out big bucks for another doctor to tell you that you're in pain, and then they're going to expect you to keep coming back until they bleed you dry." I smiled dryly and said, "That's fine." She seemed put off and offered a payment plan. Obviously my lack of excitement for the visit led her to believe that I was struggling with the deductible. Again, I said, "That's fine, I can handle the deductible today." She left, and, I kid you not, in walked Santa Claus. Did y'all know that Santa was a physical therapist when he's not forcing little people to make toys for even "littler" people? He was a nice guy...very, very thorough. He listened to me recount my medical history for what felt like the bajillionth time, and then he got this worried look on his face. "Let me listen to your heart and make sure this is even something I can fix!" he said...I thought, "Great...I'll die of a heart attack here in this old granny-smelling house/medical office. No one will find my body because of the poorly made chili!"
Anyway, my heart checked out fine, and then he started poking around between my vertebrae. Don't you love when a doctor pokes and asks, "Does that hurt? Is that tender?" It's actually kind of hard to say no when someone has his finger knuckle deep in your spine. But, he found the spot...no THE spot. "Is that tender?" he asked again. "Sweet Jesus...get it out...get it out," was all I could say. And then, he had an AH HA moment... He made me lie down on the table so that he could pretty much spin my head around like the girl from The Exorcist...he popped a few things, jerked me all over the place, and then...he grabbed me by my head (really...just like my brother did when we were kids) and pulled quickly three times in a row. I sat up and the pain was gone...not for good, but that immediate relief made me feel like Santa had given me a gift. I'll spare you all the C7 T1 mumbo jumbo and the other medical jargon and just fast forward to the traction room.
I've been in traction before; in fact, my chiropractor had strapped my entire body to a table and put me in some sort of crazy traction/inversion situation. As this tech strapped me in and prepared me for traction, though, "The Inquisition" (click it and watch...it's pretty funny!) by Mel Brooks...you know the one from History of the World, popped into my head. I started laughing and couldn't stop. The nice lady strapped my head in tightly, put an emergency cancel button in my left hand and placed a bell by my right hand. "Hit the emergency button if you need to get out of this and hit the bell if you need me," she said...and then she left. The machine began to pull my neck backward with around 30lbs of force...not too bad. In fact, the sweet lull of the antiquated piece of equipment slowly put me to sleep. I woke up...startled...some odd beeping noise...the emergency button on the floor...the head strap undone. "Hell," I thought, "this thing has pulled my head too far!" (That's the kind of thing I suppose I think of when I'm roused awake quickly!) I rang the bell, and the nice lady came back in and re-strapped me. The machine tugged on my neck for twenty more minutes until I was sufficiently stretched. As I walked out of the office, I chuckled again, thinking..."Hmmm, I wonder if I'm a little taller now."
So, since it didn't kill me, I suppose I'll go back the two times this week the doctor asked me to return. And, if he needs to see me next week, I'll make sure that he has sufficient time to deliver all those presents his elves have made!