“What’s he complaining about now? I’ve had it for years.”
Point taken. But, I moved to the North Country for a reason…I wanted to hike and climb more mountains. Now, this back pain makes those dreams a bit unattainable. And, besides, I already had back surgery for spinal stenosis back in December of 2013. So, why the pain now?
I can think of several reasons:
-I lean too far forward when I change the spark plugs in my Ford Escape. (Joke)
-I spend too much time on my knees, with a hand lens, bending over in my small Adirondack lawn, and examining the next insect that will bite the crap out of my forearm and make me bleed like a leaky garden hose. (Joke, but our hose does leak)
-I spend too much time sanding the back deck in order to paint it, yet again, with a paint that is guaranteed to last at least five years. (True)
-I spend too much time bending over, when I visit New York City, to read the headlines of the New York Times without having to pay $2.50 for a copy. (Pretty much true)
-I spent too much time sitting behind the wheel of our Ford Escape on the recent 13,589 mile road trip and not enough time hiking in the Mojave Desert or Joshua Tree National Park. (True, but if you haven’t read all those blogs, then shame on you)
-I spent too much time bending over my laptop writing about forty blogs about the trip. (True)
So, I make an appointment with my neurosurgeon in Manhattan to get an MRI to see if my left side needs surgery to repair the damage from whatever.
On May 18th, I went to my appointment at Mount Sinai to get the truth, the truth that only an MRI can tell you.
I was laid out and tucked in on the moveable bed. I looked up and saw how much smaller and narrower this “tube” was than the last time I had the procedure done. I knew I was going to become like a Coney Island Kielbasa or a Nathan’s Hot Dog. That is, if this thing had a mind of its own and somehow squeezed in on me.
The technician asked if I’d like to hear anything on the earphones.
“Anything but JZ or Big Daddy”, I said. “How about some Mozart?”
“Fine”, he said.
“I’d like to hear Mozart. Can you find Eine Kleine Nachtmusik, Adagio and Fugue, KV 546?”, is that possible?”, I asked.
“Not a problem,” he said.
And I began to feel the bed slide me inside the stainless steel tube.
I heard the opening notes…and then all I heard for the next ninety minutes was either a soundtrack from Star Wars or a Phillip Glass piece…repeating chords and noise.
When it was all over, the guy helped me stand up straight, which was nearly impossible, and informed me where the nearest bathroom was located.
I knew that my Neurosurgeon was going to see me in several days to discuss the results. Well, I demanded to speak with the Radiologist on duty that day…I wanted a quick read of the images so I could make future plans, if I had any to make.
Once he heard my name, and that I was a famous blogger from Owego, NY, he readily agreed to give me a quick summary of what he had on his computer monitor.
“Well”, he said, “see these little pinches in between your L-4 and L-5?”
[This is not my spine. Image from Wikipedia]
“Of course I see them”, I said looking at a screen that resembled a NASA image of the far side of Charon, a moon orbiting Pluto.
“But, something worrisome is showing up here,” he said. “See the area just to right of my pencil point?”
“I see,” I said.
“Well, right down here near the end of your endothelial membrane, I see a disturbing sequence beginning to take form.”
“Give it to me straight, Doc, I can handle it.”
“Well, I see a growing sense of self-doubt and insecurity,” he said. “See here?”
I looked and said “yes”.
“Over here, near your Lumbo-sacral spine, is a large mass of guilt and misgivings. Alongside that is a well of worry and loneliness.”
“I think I see,” I said.
“But there is also a distinct lack of morality, pleasure and sincerity,” he said, “and over here, see, there is growing sense of self-doubt, a mass of existentialism and nihilistic thought, as well as an approaching feeling of fear and trembling.”
He glanced at a copy of Kafka in my shoulder bag.
“But, I care about people,” I protested.
“You’d never know it from this,” he said, leaning back on his IKEA office chair. “But, there’s more. Can you take it?”
“Hit me, Doc,” I said. “Give me your best shot.”
“There is a large mass of growing dread and fear over here near your nerve-fibrillae. You fear that your real active life and vigor of youth are gone,” he said. “Am I right?”
“But, I’m going to be celebrating my 69th birthday in a few days…people will send me cards and letters.”
“Cards and letters? Where have you been, guy, off in a desert somewhere?”
“Actually, yes,” I said.
“You’ll be lucky if anyone notices your Facebook page at all. And, your blog site? Well, I’ve seen it. Nothing but pictures of cacti and sand and you posing in a cheap cowboy hat with the Queen of the Sonoran Desert at some rodeo in Yuma.”
“Hey, that hat cost me $14.95 (+ tax)”, I retorted.
“Well, happy birthday, dude, want the real medical story now?”
“You have age appropriate degeneration of the lower spine. Live with it.”
“Gee, thanks Dr. Oz.” I got up to go.
“Oh, one good thing, Patrick, you’re covered by your AARP.”
I hope D does not see the photo of that machine. He would seriously freak out – the one time he had a MRI they had to sedate him – he refused to be put inside the tube. But this was a funny blog and I guess most of it is true. And I guess we cannot do all we could in earlier years – but at least we can do some if not most of these things just differently and maybe slower. I don’t think it takes too long to feel pretty good about where we are at – just walk down a street at people just making it and those you know in that situation and lots of them are younger than us. so I guess the doc might have been saying to a person that tends toward the negative – count your blessings, take it slower and do what you want and feel good about it. From a best friend!
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Amusing, serious and reflective, all at the same time. Keep the reports coming. Paul
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Degenerative Disc Disease is a quack diagnosis very commonly used by Doctors who don’t know any better. The literature shows very poor correlation between degeneration and pain….the same even applies to an extent for herniated discs!
Read my blog or even better have a look at this Spinal Surgeon who now takes a conservative approach to treating pain.
He suffered many symptoms including severe anxiety and depression as a result of pain and came close to suicide. His program can be done for free once you learn the mechanisms
Watch these clips , short and sweet. Best of luck!
Funny and informative post. Keep up the great work.