Wednesday, October 07, 2009

I Fall to Pieces (again)

In January I posted my New Year's Resolution on my Facebook profile: To have no major surgeries in 2009.

A month ago I was doing GREAT. My oft-operated right arm was improving vastly, thanks to neuromuscular massage from the amazing Dirk McCuistion at After 3 years, I was able to wear my favorite pants again because I could reach over to pull up the side zipper. I'd made it. No surgery for me!

In late August, I, who could never bear to exercise on my own, started doing ballet & yoga exercises every day--even several times a day. Within a couple of weeks I could do ronde de jambe with a fairly good turnout, lift my right arm with much less clunking and curl up into Child's Pose. To further get into the spirit, I bought my first pair of ballet slippers in more than 25 years (men's because my feet are so huge).

Wow, I thought, I'm doing so well maybe I'll start grooming the draft horses at Four Mile Historic Park again. Or maybe even go for a trail ride before the stable at Bear Creek Lake Park closes for the season. (I haven't been on a horse since Feb 2008.)

Two weeks ago Sunday, I woke up feeling as though I'd been run over by a truck. Draggy, flu-ish and achy all over--especially my lower back. It took me a good 10 minutes to creak into Child's Pose. I kept exercising, but could do less each day. I'd been able to lift my butt 6" off the floor doing The Bridge. By last Sunday night I couldn't raise it 1mm. My left leg was hurting like hell, worst of all in Child's Pose.

After a night of sleepless agony on the bed in my office (Darling Husband was in our room for his own safety), when I got up Monday morning my left leg buckled under me and the foot was numb from instep to big toe.

Oh @#$! Off to the emergency room, where an MRI determined that the herniated disc between L4 & L5, which I thought had healed after 4 years of quiescence, had herniated even more and was pressing on the sciatic nerve. Hence the trouble with the leg. I saw my osteopath that afternoon, who set me up with a physiatrist next day, and a spine surgeon today.

Everything was fine and dandy until bedtime, when the IV painkillers I'd gotten in the ER wore off. My left thigh and calf were in excruciating pain, made worse by either ice or heat. After hours of writhing and sobbing, at 1:30am I was back at the ER.

"What can we do for you?" asked the kindly doc.
"Shoot me," I responded. And I meant it.
"We can't do that."
"Then shoot me with drugs." I meant that too.
"Any drugs in particular?"
"I really like fentanyl."
"OK. We can do that. But we'll start you off with a patch, rather than an IV."
"Yeah, whatever."

I got the fentanyl patch but it didn't help enough. By the time I was sent home at 5:30am, I'd gotten 3--or was it 4?--IV doses of fentanyl. Later that day (Tuesday) physiatrist Barry Ogin put me on a 6-day course of oral steroids and set me up for an epidural steroid injection. "However," he warned, "these are palliatives. They'll ease the inflammation and lessen the pain, but won't cure the bulging disc."

Right he was. The oral steroids decreased the pain for 3 days and scrambled my brains for 6. Yesterday's epidural made walking easier and lessened the pain in my ass in one spot, but gave me a new, sharper pain 2" above it. My left leg is still weak, and now is also numb from knee to ankle on the outside.

Today I saw spine surgeon David Wong. BOOM! On Thursday morning he's doing microsurgery to cut off the bulge in the disc and the arthritic spurs on 3 vertebrae that are pressing into it and 2 adjacent discs.

So much for resolutions.


Alan Orloff said...

So sorry to hear this.

I had a similar problem about ten years ago. Had the surgery. The good news: two minutes after I awoke in recovery, I felt like a new--painfree--person.

And I was back running in just a couple months, with no problems since.

Hang in there, relief is on the way!

Bella Stander said...

You made my day! A MILLION THANKS.

Warren Bobrow said...

I sent you a bowl of virtual matzo ball soup. .but what i really wish I could offer you would be a session a brilliant accupuncture practitioner. There are MD's out here in NJ who do this kind of thing. very relaxing and healing. feel better soon. wb

A.S. King said...

Bella--this STINKS! I will send great vibes and think of you tomorrow!

Bella Stander said...

Thanks for virtual matzo ball soup & good vibes. Gave up acupuncture because it triggered devastating PTSD panic attacks & depression. I'm staying with the healing hands at

Laurie Viera Rigler said...

Dear sweet Bella,

May your surgery go smoothly, and may you recover quickly and completely. And most of all, may you be pain free! You'll be doing pliés and chassés in no time.

Frances said...


What a discouraging setback. Just reading your post left me wincing in pain. I hope the surgery went well.

Bella Stander said...

No chassés, but believe it or not, I did some little pliés in hospital this morning. And they didn't hurt--though left foot doesn't point or flex properly. But if all goes well, it will within a few months.