The following is long, boring and written mostly for my own self. You really don't have to read it.
So the big news this week is SURGERY. Wooo-hooo I'm getting SURGERY. The story is as follows. I've had some pretty bad back and leg pain for the last year.
I think the genesis of the problem began after I did the 24-Hour Comic last year. I got home around 7:30 am, after sitting at the comic shop hunched over my drawing board for 22 hours straight. I pulled up to our house in my bright red rental car (my civic had been bashed in by the ups guy), and saw the tires of my motorbike sticking straight up. Someone had tipped it over. Thankfully, it was covered so it wasn't scratched or damaged at all. I hefted the bike up and went inside to bed.
Pain, for months afterward. We treated it with chiropractic, flexion/distraction, hours every day of stretching, acupuncture, massage therapy. Without health insurance we sought anything we could do conservatively, non-invasively and affordably. I was afraid that even paying out-of-pocket for a visit to a medical doctor would trap me into an expensive medical system, incurring big bills and possible denial of health insurance, if and when i could afford it. In addition to the pain, my muscles in my ass, leg and lower back had begun to just exist in a continual, painful cramp. The pain would move erratically all over, unpredictably. Making plans began to get difficult. Impossible to predict when I would have a 'good day'. In fact, a 'good day' was nearly impossible, since the slightest stress would bring on a pain attack. For example, when I got an x-ray, there was so much pain from an attack that the radiologist diagnosed me with scoleosis, because my posture was so affected. Of all the treatments over the months, the one I responded to best was massage therapy. My massage therapist was able to show me how to turn off the impossible cramping. I was able to get about 2 months of relief.
On Sept 15, I put a table together for StArt on the Street (see below). In the week before the event, I put in a lot of hours at the desk and started to notice the pain coming back. No time for that, I'd worry about it afterward. I got the artwork together, got my prints made, postcards printed and sat out drawing my penny drawings. Fun fun, but the back started complaining about halfway through the day. I finished up, cleaned up my booth and helped haul some tables. That was it. The next day I could barely walk, pain down the leg and up the back. Relapsed so bad I couldn't believe it. The upper back pain went away after a few days, but the leg was worse than ever.
During the 'good' few months, I'd signed up for the MA state health insurance. I finalized the paperwork and got an appointment with Nicole's nurse practitioner, now our primary care physician. She set me up with painkillers and sent me for an MRI. The earliest MRI appointment i could get was 3 weeks away. Ugh. I bugged them every day looking for cancellations and got one within 3 days, persistence pays. It turned out that I had 2 herniated discs. One wasn't so bad, but the other I guess was pretty ugly. Most likely sequestered, which means the extruded disc material was somewhere between 'almost' and 'completely' separated from the disc. Another 4 weeks and I had a consult with Fallon's neurosurgeon.
When I say Fallon's neurosurgeon, I mean he may be their only one. Completely full schedule, completely behind schedule, completely rushed and inattentive, he performed a neurological exam through my jeans. Let me explain, the nerves in my leg are effed up. Right leg has less sensation than left leg. How much less? Who knows, who cares. The exam lasted all of 9 seconds. We'd heard good things about laser surgery and were wondering if it was possible, he brushed us off and told us it didn't exist. That he'd be using "good old knives". He also told Nicole I wouldn't need physical therapy (even though my calf is atrophied and my posture is italicized), and also that I'd need to wear a girdle for the rest of my life. I waited so long for this appointment, and there it was. The car ride home was pretty quiet.
We got home and looked it up online, the laser surgery did exist. Faith completely shaken, I looked up my list of friend-recommended surgeons and called my PCP. I needed a second opinion. After a few calls and some online research I got a referral for three affiliated UMass surgeons. 2 weeks later, we met with Dr Lapinksy, an orthopedic surgeon recommended to me by 3 separate people. Our consult with him went great. He was clear, relaxed, answered all of our questions, recommended phys-therapy, and explained that the laser surgery does exist but is relatively rare and not the right procedure for my specific herniation. He clearly explained the procedure he would perform, including how much bone would be removed. The neurosurgeon, by comparison, left me with the idea that he would be removing giant sections of bone.
What will be happening is a small half-circle will be cut out of the two surrounding vertibral bones, creating a circular access hole. The processes (bony spikes) will be left alone. This small hole will give the surgeon access to the offending material, as well as create a relief-space. If another hernia occurs, there will be some leeway so that it doesn't instantly press on my nerve system.
Also, the surgery should be taking place this wednesday...within a week of the consult. Luckily, turns out people don't usually like to have surgery before thanksgiving. I should be up and around wed afternoon, but I think I'll fake it a bit to get out of washing turkeyday dishes.
I've been laying, staring at the ceiling for about a year. Once this is done I want to do everything. I plan on partying like when Bender became human, but I'll try not to get so fat afterward. Maybe more like Slurms McKenzie. WOOOOO. WOOOO. WOOO.