Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Lumbar Blues

On December 30th, while talking on the phone, looking for a pen, and walking too fast, I slipped on a wet spot and fell on my ass. The colonial pasta tiles are made of painted, polished cement that is slippery and hard. I experienced a new level of pain that night.

The next day we went to the Clínica de Mérida to consult a Dr. Hector Maldonado. (Don’t go to him for any reason! He is not only an asshole, he is an idiot.) He said I probably bruised my tail bone and gave me a prescription for an anti-inflammatory and muscle relaxers, or so I thought. He said to wait a couple of days, get xrays, and come back. It was a holiday weekend so I waited until things got back to normal. On Monday we got xrays and went back to the doctor. He was pissed off that I didn’t take the xrays at that particular clinic and said nothing was wrong, prescribing an injection of some sort. He basically accused me of faking the pain and insisted that a steroid injection was all I needed.

I hate injections. Bad childhood memories of a brown recluse spider bite surface and I panic. They do not administer injections at doctors’ offices here. They send you home with a prescription and you do it yourself. Pablo talked me into the injection and gently administered it. It gave me some relief. As the days passed the pain increased. I felt like someone had whacked me across the small of my back with a machete. As if that didn’t hurt enough, the pain spread to my hamstrings, all butt muscles, and I could hardly stand up or sit down.

I found another doctor. He was thorough and knowledgeable. By the time I consulted the second doctor my ass and legs were contracting and throbbing. He looked at the xrays and detected a herniated disc. Of course he said my only option was surgery and titanium pins. But he is supposed to say that, he turned out to be a surgeon. He changed my prescriptions, stating the ones I had would not help me. No steroid injections, just ibuprofen and a lightweight pain medication.

Not being much for surgery, and knowing people who regret having had this type of back surgery, I sought out alternative treatments. I found a chiropractor. Danny De Graff is from San Francisco and has a well organized clinic. I went for a consultation and treatment last Friday. He discovered there is a small fracture on my tailbone as well as the herniated disc. He carefully adjusted me and sent me off to the second room. There they used an electric massage tool and heat on my back. In room eight, they used electromagnetic shock on my behind, with a cold pack because of the inflammation. From there I was sent to room ten, where Nieves the masseuse was waiting for me. She gave me a thorough deep massage for thirty minutes. The entire treatment process lasted two hours, and because I bought “the paquete” of eight sessions the cost of one two hour session works out to about $45. The price of xrays they plan to take after the treatment program is included. To me this was more reasonable than a ten thousand US dollar surgery. Some of my back degeneration is due to all the lifting of heavy gear and scuba tanks, as well as the nitrogen uptake from maxing out the dive tables during my scuba instructor days. And of course, my age factors in too.

There are good days and bad days with this pain. The wet cold fronts that have been passing through don’t help my aching bones. The gloomy days do help me to accept the fact that I must hang out in the hammock with lots of pillows, or lie in bed flat on my back. The bummer is I was in too much pain to concentrate to write or read. The Soma or Flexeril I took helped me maintain the state of zombie-ism required to keep me horizontal and watch the same CSI and Law and Order programs again and again, but I am just not that much of a couch potato to be content doing absolutely nothing but staring at the TV drooling.

Yesterday I went back for my second appointment. The doctor said he could feel my spine whereas on Friday he couldn’t because it was so inflamed. I like the doctor and he doesn’t scare me. I usually have a split second of panic when a chiro gets in position to crack my back or neck…I envision permanent paralysis or death.

I spent extra time in room eight with the electromagnetic shock under a hot pad, then infrared heat. I look forward to the day they put me in the upside down vertical chair. I think my spine would enjoy a really good stretch. Soon come, man, soon come.

Research told me it takes around six weeks to heal a tailbone. I have high hopes that within a few more weeks I will be back on the dance floor. I can tell I feel better because I have a few brain cells operating again. As it turns out, I am an excellent caregiver but a lousy patient. My first lesson of the year is learning to ask for help and not feel guilty that I need some.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Another Christmas Passed

Jude, Pablo and Jill on Pre-Christmas Eve.

The Navidad altar.

Busmo guards his present.

We celebrated Christmas Eve on the 23rd: Pablo, Jude visiting from Georgia, Jill visiting from down the street...actually she was taking on the commando during our absence over Christmas, the commando and me. There were a few gifts under the Christmas altar, and Busmo was particularly attracted to one which happened to be their new scratching post. The catnip inside probably clued him in. Watching the cats enjoy opening gifts was more fun than receiving gifts myself.

One of my gifts from Pablo was this cool pair of "slipper" slippers.

I macramed some friendship bracelets with the clay beads we brought back from La Calma, Honduras. Daniela, Pablo and I painted most of them. I also made some keychains. People love bracelets around here, so I was able to gift several. It was not my most artistic year, but at least I made an effort.

Busmo wins the cutest photo of the week posing in the canoe.

I will catch you up on the holiday happenings as soon as I get reorganized. Happy New Year! ¡Feliz Año Nuevo!