Today I had to go to the drug store to pick up some prescriptions (alas, none related to my back problems). It was a five-minute trip by car, so I decided to cross my fingers and drive. I set up an arrangement of cushions on the driver’s seat. The last time I tried this (over a week ago), the result had been quite painful. It was still painful, and I wouldn’t want to drive more than 5-10 minutes, but it was not as bad as that last time. I’m healing. However, as I picked up my prescriptions and some groceries at the drug store, I started sweating and huffing and puffing. Of course. For the most part I’ve been lying down for the past three weeks. I’m out of shape, probably the worst shape I’ve been in my life, even though I’ve lost some weight during this convalescence. One ten-minute walk every day doesn’t change that. My spine is borrowing healing from my muscles. OK, but at some point I need to redress that balance.
Another entry in the seemingly never-ending saga of my medical recovery. <lj-cut> My current status: I’m getting better, but with all the speed of a glacier that doesn’t believe in global warming. I’ve been able to work from home, and they’re being incredibly generous about that at my workplace. However, my (inexpert) estimate is that if I don’t get some form of additional treatment it will take a couple of months to recover. Maybe I should be more patient. But I would like to be able to drive, if not be free of pain, sooner than that. I spend most of the day lying on my sofa. That may be good for healing my coccyx, but it’s not good for other aspects of my physical or mental health. I visited an orthopedist and spine expert two weeks ago. He took some X-rays, and didn’t see anything obvious. He ordered a couple of MRIs: one for the lumbar region, for the sacrum/coccyx. My insurance company approved the lumbar MRI, and I had that done <a href=”https://argothald.wordpress.com/96916/”>a week ago</a>. However, the company did not automatically approve the sacrum/coccyx MRI. They put it in the “peer-to-peer” category, which means the insurance company wants one of their doctors to speak to my doctor before they approve it. And so we enter the Catch-22: the MRI facility got the peer-to-peer status from the insurance company; the facility called the doctor’s office to notify them of the peer-to-peer request; it’s been two weeks since the doctor ordered the MRI and there’s been no change in status. Without the MRI, the doctor is not going to be able to make an informed recommendation for a course of treatment (if indeed there is any treatment other than his original prescription: bed rest). Without the insurance company’s approval, the MRI facility won’t do the MRI. Without the doctor’s office scheduling the peer-to-peer discussion, the insurance company won’t issue the approval. I have not been inert during this time. I’ve called the MRI facility, who said they called the doctor’s office more than once. I called the doctor’s office: the first time I spoke with someone who was puzzled and said they didn’t even know the correct phone number to call at the insurance company; the second time was today, when I was told that the person who handles peer-to-peer scheduling has gone home for the day. That’s a shame, because I had called the insurance company and got the number to call. Meanwhile, I’m stuck. I lie on the sofa. I take a hot bath once a day in the hope that it will help my lower back pain. I try to walk around the block once a day to keep from being completely moribund; twice that seemed to reduce the pain, other times it didn’t help. I’m Netflixing my way through “How I Met Your Mother”, which apart from the usual flaws of television comedy is making me feel lonely, since I’m not likely to meet anyone while lying on my sofa (nor when I’m not lying on my sofa, but that’s another story). I’ll admit I’m not in good state right now. I’m doing my best to count my blessings: Although I’m going to miss a Halloween party I really wanted to go to, I’ll be able to be at a Samhain ritual. My insurance is covering all the costs of the MRI. I know I’ll recover eventually, no matter what. But it can be tedious to watch the clock ticking in the meantime. </lj-cut>
Today I finally managed to work my way through the insurance company’s twisty maze of little passages, all alike, and get approval for an MRI. The location was only ten minutes from my home by car. I’ve been basically lying on my sofa or my bed for the past two weeks, and was feeling better. I decided to drive there. <lj-cut> This was a mistake. It was about as painful as driving had been two weeks ago, on the day of the accident. Having special cushions in my car had almost no effect. I made it to the medical facility and had an MRI of my lumbar region. I’ve had MRIs before. They’re not much fun. If you’ve never experienced an MRI: It teaches you why the first thing a zombie or a vampire does is claw their way out of their coffin. At least coffins are quiet, and the undead can move around as much as they want. An MRI offers neither benefit. My problem is that there was no pain-free way for me to lie on my back, despite the kindness of the staff, their willingness to provide pillows and other supports, and my testing several positions. The pain wasn’t too great, but it was constant, and I couldn’t move. When I was finally released from my coffin–excuse me, the MRI device–every move of my spine was agony. Fortunately, I was able to break up the way back into two five-minute trips, stopping at a mall to do some shopping. Overall, the experience has set me back in my recovery, at least for today. I still have at least one more MRI to go (for the sacrum/coccyx), pending insurance approval. At this moment I almost hope that the insurance company declines to pay for it. This tells me that it’s not likely I’ll be able to drive to work this Monday. Damn. I must be patient. </lj-cut>
The good news is that the orthopedist thinks I’ll make a complete recovery. The bad news is that this will take time. The minimum time it will take me to recover is two weeks; he’s written an official note to that effect. In the meantime, he’s prescribed rest, with no pressure on my coccyx. That pretty much rules out driving. Any work sessions will be limited to about 15 or so while sitting or standing. The rest of the time I’ll be lying down. I’ll know more after I get an MRI next week. In the meantime, I’ve got pills for the worst of the pain. My chief enemy will be boredom. I needed to go from one place to another today: doctor’s office to pharmacist to grocery shopping. My thanks to Vann for being my chauffeur today. He exceeded my aspirations!   Yes, there’s a pun in there.
Counting the hours until the appointment with the orthopedist. I’ve barely managed to control the pain with some leftover pills, but those will run out soon. I could also spend time counting my blessings: medical insurance, a good workplace, a healthcare system that will support me. It’s a little harder when you’re in pain, but it’s better to focus on the best than anticipate the worst.
A addendum to my last post:
he Doctor said I should be given some ibuprofen. The Hostess found a bottle. The Doctor asked, “How many milligrams of ibuprofen are in each pill?” The Hostess looked at the label. “200 milligrams.” “Give him six.”
So the Hostess gave me six pills and I swallowed them down. The Doctor was tending my back and didn’t watch this. It wasn’t until later, when six hours had passed and we discussing the next dose, that it became clear: When the Doctor said “Give him six,” she meant “six hundred milligrams” not “six pills.” Fortunately, my kidneys didn’t power-eject from my body or whatever happens due to an excess of ibuprofen.
The lesson: Make sure everyone providing medical care is speaking the same language!
Last Saturday, I was at the home of a friend of mine. Call her the Hostess. The reason for the visit was to meet with Melissa Dinwiddie. She’s an artist, musician, and creative consultant. I was there to attend a workshop Melissa was giving on how to encourage creativity.
About a half-hour into the workshop there’s a bathroom break. I go to the bathroom on the second floor. On the way down, I slipped on the staircase and fell down about half a story. If this had been one of those old silent movies, or an action-adventure film, I’m sure this would have looked comical — on film. In reality, when I got to the bottom of the stairwell I was screaming. Everyone rushed over to help me. I was in so much pain that it took me a minute or so before I recovered enough composure to make sure I could still move my legs.
Fortunately, another one of the guests at the workshop was a physician. Let’s call her the Doctor. She tended to my immediate needs (“No! Do not try to get up!”, cold packs, hot packs, etc.). While I was still lying on the floor, I requested that Melissa start the workshop again. It was important to me at that moment that my accident did not steal the focus of why the others were there.
The Doctor remained at my side. Eventually I was able to stand, walk to a chair, and participate in the workshop again. However, I was still in pain. The Doctor told me that, at minimum, I’d sprained my lower back and bruised my coccyx. I chose to try to drive back home that evening. I was OK for the first part of the drive, but towards the end it got really painful.
Unfortunately, since then I’ve not gotten better. My lower back aches more, and the coccyx pain reasserts itself if I either stand or sit for too long (even with pillows). I’m only pain-free if I’m lying down. Ibuprofen (which I’m not supposed to take) and naproxen (which the Doctor told me would do nothing) don’t work.
So I’ve spent most of the past two days lying in my sofa and watching TV. I have an appointment to see a back specialist this Thursday morning. I can hold out until then. Fortunately, they’re being very understanding at work. So that’s one-half this post’s title.
What about the other half? As I was sitting on the floor, the Doctor start massaging my lower back to relieve the muscle tension. The Hostess joined her. The Hostess and the Doctor are very attractive women, whom I’ve known for years. If I’m honest with myself, I have to admit that I’ve thought about them rubbing my back before, though not under these circumstances.
So I hereby give Melissa a pull quote for her workshop: “I attended Melissa Dinwiddie’s workshop, and my fantasy came true!”
 By now it’s obvious that I’m concealing some names to protect their privacy. You may speculate on their identities if you wish. It’s OK to ask, “Hostess Who?”
 Yes, there’s a pun in there somewhere.
 “Rubbing my back” sounds like a euphemism. It actually means that my fantasies are rather dull.
 Your mileage may vary.