Monday, July 02, 2007

Bona Fide Weenie

In my last post, I mentioned (in what I thought was an aside) that I was going to have an "epidural steroid injection" today. I didn't quite know what that would entail, but I was anxious. I'm thankful to MadPriest for encouraging some God-bothering on my behalf. I'm really grateful to the many of you fellow denizens of MadPriest's virtual parish for the prayers and encouragement. I do declare: MadPriest's "virtual parish" is surely one of the healthiest, truly functional ones in the Anglican Communion these days. Thank you, fellow bog-standard Christians. This blogosphere community really is amazing, isn't it?, in the way it connects us outside of geography.

For those who are curious, let me back up a bit and explain. You long-time readers will remember I had a weird thing happen last fall, where I woke one morning with a completely paralyzed right hand. [I blogged about it back in September and October and finally in November with my good news of recovery.] It made me crazy, and there was no treatment for it. Time and prayer worked their wonders, though, and it became functional again.

Some other "stuff" has been occurring in the last few months, though, which I worked for a while to ignore. A lot of it seemed to me like maybe it was some sort of "repetitive stress injury" like carpal tunnel syndrome, but some of the symptoms just didn't seem to jibe. Both hands/arms just "don't feel right." [Is that an official medical term yet?] Lots of aches. Occasional severe pain. They feel like they're shaky, though they don’t physically/visibly do so. Sometimes, it just feels like all I can do to make my hands/arms operate. And there are times when my lower legs also just don't seem to want to do what I tell them to do. [Self to leg: "Press the accelerator." Leg to self, whining: "Do I really have to??"]

So I finally went to my doc, and then she had an EMG done, which ruled out carpal tunnel. So she ordered an MRI, which showed a bulging disk in my upper spine. When they called to give me the results, they said that could account for the tingling and pain. (Funny thing, though: I've never complained of any tingling, and the pain's manageable; it's the sense of diminished motor control that's really bugging me!) So she arranged for me to have this "epidural steroid injection," which I had today. They shoot steroids into the upper spine to reduce the inflammation, and that should (as they say) reduce the tingling sensations. (Duh! How many times do I need to say this ain't about tingling!?!)

I'll screw on my bravery cap now, and confess two things to you folks.

First, throughout this thing, I've learned that I have a very active and imaginative Inner Drama Queen. And she's just certain that this is some "Dread Disease" like Parkinson's. I work to keep her at bay. But I do have a pretty great fear of disability. Those fears were kicked up big-time last fall when my right hand was paralyzed, and I got more aware of what disabled folks must endure just to get through the day.

Second, I am a Bona Fide Weenie when it comes to any kind of medical procedures. I'm such a weenie that I have to have nitrous oxide even to have a routine dental cleaning. And shots? Needles? Ohmygawd! Don't even go there.!

Several of my friends whom I know personally, as well as you friends from the blogosphere, have asked how the procedure went today. So I'm going to take up a lot of bandwidth and tell you probably more than you wanted to know. But this way, I can just send folks to this page instead of trying to describe it to folks individually. I apologize if this seems like the lazy out. But I am so wiped out this evening that I really need to take this lazy way out.

The appointment was at 12:30. The doctor had told me I had to show up there with a driver, as I wouldn't (at least shouldn't) drive myself home. I am grateful for those who offered to be my driver and companion. Chris lost the lottery, and was a huge help. Thanks, Chris!

The place I went is called something like the Center for Pain Management. Both the nurse then the doc seemed surprised when they were going over my symptoms, as major pain just isn't the issue. The MRI had shown a bulging cervical disk, and my primary doc said this steroid injection should reduce the swelling in that disk and make the tingling etc go away. (Never mind that tingling has never been a symptom!) Oh well. I and my Inner Drama Queen figured reducing the inflammation should be a good thing, and – who knows? – maybe it'll help with whatever is really going on.

My doc had said they would do it with that kind of IV sedation that has you officially conscious, but you're oblivious to the whole thing, and just wake up afterwards with no recollection. (I had that done when I had wisdom teeth removed, and was grateful for it.) But when I got to the clinic and said, "We'll do this with sedation, right?" they just pretty much dismissed it – even after I explained that I'm a Bona Fide Weenie about medical stuff. So I agreed [and I use that term loosely] to do it without sedation. Partly, I was cowed by their obvious "oh, it'll be nothing" and partly by (a) the fact that the procedure would take a lot longer that way and (b) the much-longer list of things I wouldn't be able to do for 24 hours if I opted for sedation.

They did the procedure with me sitting in a chair. Rest chin on chest, in order to separate the vertebrae so the doc could "get a clearer shot" between the vertebrae, I assume. They had warned me both injections would be long and painful. No shit! The first injection was some sort of narcotic [Fentanyl, the paper says]. Then the steroid injection. I was hooked up to blood pressure and pulse monitor. When I got there, it was normal for me (120/72). When I looked up afterwards, it was dropping under 100. They suggested I just sit there and relax, and I said nothankyouveryfuckingmuch-Iwannaliedown, 'cause I had this lousy light-headed gonna-pass-out feeling. So they helped me up onto the thing that passes for a bed, and it got a little better after a while.

As soon as I could, I got up, and my friend Chris brought me home around 2:00. I've spent most of these past hours sleeping. When I get up, I feel light-headed and sick. The Big Orange Guy and I are spending quality time on the sofa. I think he's glad that I'm just hanging out with him, instead of slaving over a hot keyboard.

A friend sent me an encouraging note that, having gone through the procedure fully conscious, maybe I deserve to give back the Bona Fide Weenie t-shirt. Thanks, Liz! and I think so. It was hard to do.

Of course, they didn't sedate the Inner Drama Queen, so she's still on active duty.

The docs today warned me that, once the narcotic wears off, I may have more pain from the injection for a couple days. Great. Just great. Not.

Now … we'll just see whether this whole thing makes a real difference. I have to go back in about 3 weeks for a do-over. I'm told it may take a series of three injections for this to do the trick. Ah well. When one puts oneself in the hands of the Great American Medical "Care" System, one just needs to "lie back and think of England." [Surely you do all know the joke to which that is the punchline, right?]

I'll end with a couple of delightful notes I've seen.

My Episcopal Majority buddy Tom is a genius with limericks. He sent me this one, which made me laugh even while I was feeling so lousy this afternoon.

The day of Princess Lisa's epidural,
the expletives were, alas, all in plural,
but she's got to get back,
to avoid getting the sack
and conserve ten more documents and a mural.
Tom's right. The inner expletives were definitely in plural. And I know I need to get back to work as soon as I can stay awake for more than a couple of hours.

I saw another this evening, as I was trying to catch up on the HoBD listserv. One of our Deputies, who is facing truly dire medical stuff with her infant son, had remarked: "I've heard it's theologically immature of me to say - still, I think he has fared so well because so many people have prayed for him." Dear Elizabeth+ responded to her: "It takes a very brave heart to say, 'Help me.' It takes a gracious heart to say 'Thank you.' It takes a humble heart to say, 'I couldn't have done it without your prayers.' Bravery, graciousness and humility have never been marks of theological immaturity."

This Bona Fide Weenie can't claim bravery. But I certainly am overwhelmed with gratitude and humility for the support I have received from so many friends in my Real Life and in my Virtual Life here in the blogosphere. Thank you, one and all.

And now, I'm going back to sleep.


Blogger Ann said...

Having an injection in your spine is an excuse for drama -- it is not a hangnail, FGS!! Continued prayers surrounding you.

7/03/2007 6:42 AM  
Blogger Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Something must be in the ether. My back is OUT. Ms. Conroy is coming to fetch me to bring me to the doctor. I'm writing this as a way to not concentrate on the pain.

If misery loves company, here I am, send me!

Pray for me and I'll pray for you.

7/03/2007 7:10 AM  
Blogger Liz+ said...

Code words and phrases to watch out for: "oh, it's nothing," easy," "simple," nothing to it," you won't feel a thing," it'll be over in a minute," "only," "you'll be fine," "just [fill in the blank]," "this will only feel like a little pinch," etc.

BonaFideWeenieRule#1: Never trust a person you don't know and who doesn't know you but who will tell you how you will respond to something that is concerning you.

Code phrases to take seriously: "you'll feel uncomfortable for a couple of days," "this is only going to hurt a bit," etc.

BonaFideWeenieRule#2: When they say that, it's definitely time to insist on a sedative or whatever else is available to put you out. Even if the effects of the 'out' last a while.

Time to send that Bona Fide Weenie shirt to the Sandwich Islands, Wonder Woman. I can't imagine being conscious and voluntarily experiencing what you did yesterday. You are indeed a brave and courageous soul!

7/03/2007 10:07 AM  
Blogger Lisa said...

Thanks for your good wishes.

Elizabeth, I hope you're getting some relief by now. You betcha! misery loves company. I'll be your prayer partner in this.

Liz, your observations are wise and witty. Thanks!

And just to update: Today started out pretty miserable. Neck very stiff and sore, and lots of woozieness. I didn't go to work. But I'm just up from an [eek!] 4-hour nap, and feeling much better for now.

7/03/2007 6:08 PM  
Blogger Caminante said...

Belatedly, hope you and your dear kitty are doing OK, resting and taking care of each other as you can. Being sick (under siege) while living alone is the pits and induces fits of the Drama Queen. As for being a weenie, I don't think so. Hang in there.

7/04/2007 4:40 PM  
Blogger sharecropper said...

Hope that this holiday brings you much more relief than the "tingling" and that this is the correct diagnosis and treatment. You are definitely not a weenie, but you might need some help with assertiveness. Hee, hee. Prayers for your continued recovery.

7/04/2007 7:13 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Conscious sedation is GREAT! I don't remember a thing about my colonoscopy. Mention the post-injection blood pressure drop next time - uh, I go vasovagal with pain like this, can't you do something better?


7/06/2007 6:54 PM  

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