Sunday, August 05, 2007

A pain in the neck...

Literally. I was rear-ended in April 2004, and yep, that hurt my neck. Then after I got glasses for the first time... actually progressive bifocals... actually, trifocals because there's a top, middle and bottom range of vision correction in them... ugh... anyway, I had trouble getting the correct position to look through them. Basically, I screwed up my neck. It's been hurting for, well, over 3 years. I thought that it had only been a couple of years, but times flies... and I only just this morning realized that the car accident with my LeSabre was in April of 2004, not 2005 like I've been telling everyone. Oh, well.

This past January, being unable to get any kind of soon appointment with our family doctor, I went to our local urgent care facility. The nice doctor there gave me a prescription for Prednizone, and that helped with the pain for quite a few weeks. But then in April, it came back, and with it, the usual numbing pain going from my neck, across my left shoulder and down my left arm. Then the palm/pad of my left thumb starting itching. I mean ITCHING. It nearly drove me bonkers. So I called my doctor's office, and once again being unable to get an appointment with him any time soon, I went to urgent care. Another nice doctor there gave me another prescription for Prednizone and also a prescription for Physical Therapy. The PT was specifically to help me with the "pinched nerve" in my neck, which he believed was my problem, as did the PT woman.

I started the PT sessions early in June, and very shortly realized that was a big mistake. It hurt. And I'm no pussy when it comes to pain, so it really, really hurt. But the PT explained that it had to get worse before it got better. After about 3 weeks of 2 or 3 sessions a week, I stopped going. I knew something was very wrong. The pain was actually triggering constant nausea, which I was usually successful at fighting... but I was too sick to drive, too sick to go into work; I think I missed 5 or 6 days in June. It was awful.

I finally got an appointment with my family doctor, who spent about 5 minutes with me and then - of course - referred me to another doctor. A rehabilitation specialist. I'd never heard of that. But I went this past Wednesday morning, and had a nice discussion with him. Which resulted in my being scheduled for an MRI Thursday morning at 6:30am.


Those of you who have experienced an MRI for your neck area know what I'm talking about...

I had to lay flat on my back (which I have been unable to do without pain for months and months, by the way), with my head on this perch. I had to put in earplugs, and then they put these blocks of hard foam stuff on either side of my head, not only for additional sound insulation, but also to hold my head still.

The nurse then gave me this cord with a button on the end of it, and she told me that if it got just too difficult to bear while I was in there, to just press the button. Feeling quite comforted with that safety measure, I resigned myself to the process.

The part of the machine I was laying on started to move forward. Let me just say that, not being a small woman, I was very, very surprised that I fit into that tube. It was a tight fit, and my arms were forced down at an odd angle. By this time, my shoulders, arms, back, legs and feet were already tingling... painfully, which is what happens whenever I lay on my back.

Within 5 minutes I could not have pressed that button if my life depended upon it. I couldn't feel it. I couldn't feel my hands. They told me it would be about 15 minutes. It was almost 45. It was loud and painful. I preferred the loud noises though, because it gave me something to concentrate on; it was more difficult to take when things went quiet. Of course, the pain started to trigger nausea, and then I almost panicked with the thought of barfing in that tube.

When they finally slid me out, the nurse cheerfully said, "OK, you can sit up now." Yeah, right. As soon as I can tell that I have a body again. I shuffled back to the bathroom, holding the key to the locker in my hand. I know it was in my hand, because I could see it. I couldn't however, yet feel it. I asked the nurse to please unlock my locker for me, and she seemed surprised. Yeah, that made me want to put her in that tube for 45 minutes. See how you feel.

By the time I got dressed and out to the lobby area, my "Kodak moment" was ready for me, as the way-too-cheerful older nurse told me. She handed me a large envelope containing 5 sheets of several photos from the MRI. She explained how important it was for me to hang on to those and take care of them. I told her I agreed it was important, because I was never going to have another MRI again. Her cheerfulness vanished instantly, and she pretty much turned her back on me. I was dismissed. The old bitty. Perfect ending to a perfect experience.

I waited until I got almost home to look at the pictures. I ended up stopping on our road right before our driveway and pulling them out. Then when I got home, I did some 'net searching... of course. Not sure if that's a good thing or not.

Here are some of the pictures.

From my feeble research, it appears to not be a pinched nerve, but rather a herniated disk. The rehabilitation doctor and I had discussed that possibility, and thankfully, there are ways to treat it that do not include surgery. Physical therapy is one way, and when he saw me flinch, he explained that the PT I had for a pinched nerve was not what would happen for a herniated disk. (I believe the PT I had in June caused me more problems and pain... Big Time.) There are also medications for treatment. I'm all for that. Bring on the drugs (screw you, Tom).

The MRI was worth it then, I guess. Though I will never do another one conscious again. My head, neck, shoulders, arms and back have been through the ringer. I have pretty much been lying down since Thursday, as much as possible. I feel like I have a cement block sitting on the base of my skull, and that's not very conducive to a happy mood and to productivity. Shit.

I have a follow-up doc appointment this week to find out for sure what it is. Ugh.

And today, the kiddos and I are going to go get groceries, which I've been putting off for weeks. I would love to put it off some more, but we are totally running out of stuff. I plan to be the director today, so I'm practicing my pointing skills now... owww...

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