The Bionic Woman

I grew up in the 1970s, watching such TV delights as Starsky and Hutch, Charlie’s Angels, The Six Million Dollar Man and its spin off The Bionic Woman. How little did I know, as a skinny ginger-haired kid, that I would too be bionic!

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I closed my gallery for Christmas on Christmas Eve and I was, by then, totally exhausted. I couldn’t stand for any length of time, and I couldn’t walk at all without pain.  I was hoping for a surgery appointment in the Christmas holidays, but with no date appearing,  I rang the Admissions Clerk a couple of times and explained that, as a self-employed person, I needed a date and an early one at that! Having been given (and then turned down) a date previously which fell in the week before Christmas, my by far busiest week of the year, I didn’t want to keep my gallery closed any longer than necessary. To their credit the date came through the fairly quickly after that.

I won’t bore you with the details, but watching this video explains the surgery I had.

http://www.spine-health.com/video/spine-fusion-surgery-video#vm_A_569b6008

Short story – I am now bionic. Fact.

I don’t remember much of the aftermath; I went from recovery to the high dependency unit thanks to low blood pressure. I do remember trying to focus on details of the room, which changed as more and more lights seemed to be put on around me, but I don’t remember much other than the constant nurse checks. Once my BP increased everyone seemed to relax!

I came out of hospital four days after being admitted. All I had to do was prove that I could walk to the toilet, go to the toilet and navigate the stairs. It was a little earlier than I’d anticipated,  my husband had even booked work for that day, but the junior doctors seemed happy.

People now seem split into two groups on discovering that I’ve had surgery; half think I should be in bed all of the time and the rest think that’s you fixed,  why aren’t you in the pub?

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Truth is, my recovery consists of walking, sitting and lying down. I am currently paying the price for over-estimating how much I can comfortably walk. I thought it was more, my body says no! So, without pain afterwards, I can probably walk a third of a mile without issue. I can sit down for up to an hour and a half in total, yes in total – in a day! The rest of the time I’m lying down. I might be doing abdominal exercises, I might be resting on my side, I might be posting on Facebook or doing my blog. I might be sewing, doing my diary or watching TV, but all of those things I can do lying down! What will change over the next few weeks is how much more walking and sitting I can manage.

Some things I’m not allowed to do at all, like anything involving bending. I can’t put on my shoes. I can’t hoover. I certainly can’t load and unload the washing machine, make a bed or put my socks away in the bottom drawer. I can’t drive. I can’t catch a bus. I can’t put the dog’s lead on, unless I can coax the dog to jump to a surface at my hip height!

This will all improve and by 8 weeks I should start physio again, appointments permitting. I should be starting back to work at that point too. By then I should be able to walk three miles. That’s a lot of shoulds.

My only worry at the moment is that besides the back pain, which is understandable, I also have nerve pain on my outer lower left leg. I can’t bear to have it touched, or for the bed clothes to even brush it. If I wear close fitting leggings or long socks, it’s bearable – but it’s there. It feels as if a layer of skin is missing and the nerves are exposed. I’ve got the same thing to a lesser degree to either side of the surgery site. I’m hoping that this is temporary. In any case it’s better than I have had and I’m grateful for that.

Does anyone else have experience of spinal fusion?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Catching Up

My updates have become sparse of late; I’m busy at work and tired when I get home and, honestly, posting updates here, when I’ve got little to say about running, is sometimes a step too far. And I apologise for that.

That makes it sound as if I’m being negative about everything and I’m not, not at all. I’m so annoyingly positive I think I’m starting to get to my husband, who is naturally not quite as positive. I look past the surgery to the days when I can walk without pain, really walk – up hills, over dales, along all the forest walks I so miss. I’m now waiting for the letter to tell me when my surgery is due. I need to know.

Hubbie says I’m to make sure my will is up to date. I’m sure that’s from a practical point of view and not that he’s envisaging death on the operating table. Pretty sure any way. It’s something we’ve talked about for a while because provisions we’d made for our children when we first made a will are no longer necessary. I’m sure my son, now 24, knows exactly who he wants to live with and it’s definitely not his dad! I’ll do my will, if only to give hubbie one less thing to worry about.

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We rarely think, when injured or ill, how that affects the people around us. I’ve gone from being a really fit 50 year old to a disabled 52 year old. And, as you know, it happened BANG, like that. Hubbie used to ferry me around from race to race, standing at the start and the finish to watch me go and, eventually, come back. He didn’t get the whole fitness thing; being able to lift a Scotch Pie from the fridge is exercise enough for a working man. I did get him running at one point – I think he was missing me when I was training as much and decided that if I was out, he’d come with me. He was good too. He did two races and, despite declaring his impending death as we slogged towards the finish line, he came close to running a sub 30 minute 5k.

When he was brave enough to admit that he wasn’t enjoying the training, I put away my whistle and clipboard and he accompanied me on his bike, becoming my Semi Silent Coach, who delighted in cycling behind me and “just watching”. It was like being chased in slow motion by Benny Hill on a bike.

Now he’s the guy who helps lift my mobility scooter in and out of the car, tries to park as close to the shop we need as possible, watches me grimace when the pain catches me out and worries about what could go wrong in a few weeks. I love him for all of those things. And I worry only about him and how he’ll cope.

This week I received my Blue Badge, the accolade of disability. I have been determined, under strict criteria, impaired enough to warrant an award. I carry my Blue Badge with me everywhere, waving it at imaginary wardens. It will help and I am determined not to abuse it, as I see others do. I shall not abandon my car anywhere and plonk the badge on display before I leave declaring “I’m allowed, I’m disabled!” I will not park all day in disabled spaces. In my world, that’s just taking the piss. I will use my badge with discretion and not so as to annoy the hell out of everyone around me.

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This weekend I’m setting up a new exhibition at the gallery. I’ve suddenly become all sensible and decided that, in order to set it up without hurting myself, I’ll close early and take my time. I’ve even turned down the offer of lunch so that I don’t put myself under additional pressure. I am learning to cope with this, just in time for it all to (hopefully) end! Typical, isn’t it?

We learn from the things that affect us, no matter how slowly. 

 

Forget Snow White, I’m a Dwarf

SleepyToday I am Sleepy and I probably will be all day, with perhaps a touch of Grumpy.

Why? Because I’m currently trying to process the gluten to which my body has long since told me I’m intolerant. During my last visit to the doctor I mentioned that in addition to all my other maladies I am wheat intolerant and that my uncle has Coeliac Disease. Apparently the menopause can bring on CD, so my doctor was quite insistent that I get tested as soon as possible. Did I also mention that I was menopausal? Oh it just gets better and better!

Sadly being tested for CD entails me eating as much gluten-containing food as I can for two weeks and then having a blood test. I started on Monday and, at first, didn’t notice much of a change. I was surprised, because a lot of the time I feel ill almost straightaway after eating wheat products. It’s now day five and I could sleep for Scotland. Lethargic isn’t the word; I feel totally drained and I’m struggling to get going in the mornings, even to go to my beloved gallery.

I also have a permanent stomach ache, which is just making me feel rotten. It’s not bad enough that my back is sore no matter what I’m doing but, for the next two weeks, I know I’m going to feel…well…shit. There is no better word for it!

I’m trying to make the best of it, enjoying foods I’ve forgotten I used to be able to eat. Normal and cheaper foods; cakes, biscuits, pastry – real bread! My breakfast today consisted of Tiger Loaf, lightly toasted. There is a gluten free Tiger Loaf made by Udi, but it starts to fall apart after the first couple of days. This was real bread. But, as much as I’m loving retasting these foods, I’m hating this. Roll on next Sunday!

I finally have a date to meet with the neurosurgeon up at Edinburgh to discuss my spinal surgery. It’s not until the end of March, but that means that my surgery should take place before the middle of April. It’s giving me something to focus on as my stomach churns over and over. I’m not second guessing what he will suggest, but I have been researching options just so that I can be informed when he speaks to me. I expect they hate people like me with Google on tap, but I need to understand in order to process the whole experience without going mad!

Excuse me now, I need to stand under the shower for half an hour in order to wake up!

 

 

 

The Verdict

A few weeks back I went for an MRI. It was a surreal experience. You are basically sent, lying down, into a brightly lit cylinder. Before going in you are given ear protection and a panic button. The panic button is there because the cylinder you are slid into isn’t that much bigger than you are and it could feel claustrophobic. As I decided to close my eyes and keep them closed throughout the procedure, I had no idea how close the ‘ceiling’ was until the end. That was a smart move! My scan took about half an hour, in batches of four – five minute scans. Each one was very noisy, with a series of clicks, whirs and bangs and in between each the radiographer reassuringly told me what would happen next.

The results were sent to my orthopaedic consultant and I finally met with him today. The verdict is that I have Spondylosis of the lumbar spine, basically arthritis in my lower back. The third and fourth vertebrae have worn out and the disc between them is bulging out on the left side, pushing against nerves and causing pain in my leg. I got to see my body cut crossways and lengthways – really amazing to see!

The upshot is that I need surgery on my spine. My consultant is referring me for surgery today, in fact he was doing it when I left, and I will have to travel to Edinburgh Western General for treatment. I have no idea how soon that will be and I’m prepared for a long wait, such is the NHS. The good news is that the surgery isn’t as major as it used to be and I should only be off my feet for a few days. Also the MRI showed that the rest of my spine is in perfect condition, even more reason to have the surgery and get on with the rest of my life!

So, that’s where I’m at. After a whole year of constant pain I’m looking at a few more months and then surgery. After that I don’t know if my bursitis will clear up on its own or if I’ll need a second surgery for that. I’ll speak to the surgeon when I go to Edinburgh. I suspect they’ll do the spinal surgery and then see how that effects everything else.

The consultant could not tell me what caused this. Spondylosis is a wear and tear disease. I’ve had back problems since I was 16, so this is probably just something that was bound to happen. It could be that the running aggravated it, it could be that the running held it at bay as I lost weight and gained stability in my core – who’s to know?

I actually feel better knowing what is causing the problem. I feel better knowing that there is light at the end of the tunnel, albeit surgery. I also feel better that, at last, I have proof that I’m not faking it, there is really something seriously wrong. I can actually use my mobility scooter and not feel a total fraud!