Saturday, June 18, 2011

My head aches -- warped and tied up I need to kill this pain

It's been a week since I hit the limits of my mortality.

That may be a bit over dramatic, but when you wake up unable to feel parts of your leg there's a certain about of concern that sets in. Since then, I've seen 3 doctors, had my insides scanned twice by two different means, and been stuck by 3 needles to take my precious blood and test it. The last part really sucked since I've been only ordered to give up two blood samples. The extra jabbing was just to aggravate me apparently.

The results??? Well... looks like I'm going to live for now. Let's address the issues separately:

Issue one, as carefully detailed ad nauseum in the last blog I have the lack of feeling in parts of my leg and bum. This week I saw an actual neurosurgeon and have a little clearer understanding of this particular ailment. The piece of disc material in the spinal canal that blew out of the disc between the L4 and L5 vertebrae is constricting and pushed against some nerves. This is causing the numbness or tingling. The disc (which is a spongy cartilage type substance contained in a membrane) has a rupture, which allowed the chunk to be broken off. For now, I'm not to do any heavy lifting or extraneous activity involving the lower back so more material isn't ejected until the membrane is healed, which happens naturally (think a cut on your skin). The disc material, once outside the membrane, will dry out and be removed by the body.. sort of dissolving in the spinal fluid (which pulses with your heartbeat.. who knew?).

As for the feeling, the sensory nerves will in time regain their feeling. According to google, the Mayo clinic, WebMD, and any number of medical related websites, this takes from 1-6 months usually. According to the doc, the sensory nerves take much longer to return to normal than your motor nerves. As long as I don't lose any motor control, there's no call for surgery. The downside is I have to maintain vigilant watch to make sure I'm not having issues controlling myself... whether it be bladder control or walking. So every time I think i may stumble a little (which is my usual modus operandi... ie I'm clumsy) I flash a thought of "Run to the hospital and have my spine cut out". So the challenge, again, is not panic.

The next step; maintain vigilance, stay out of the gym, return for another MRI the first week of August, and a followup neuro visit the next week.

Easy enough, but this is still really annoying. I don't like the feelings of numbness. I don't like the constraints on my activity. Worst of all, I don't like thinking that some sensation I haven't noticed or paid attention to in the past could be the first step to paralysis. In short, I don't like having to realize I'm not invincible.

Nest issue: The first blood work came back with a anomalous reading of excessively high liver enzymes. That was surprising, but also surprising is otherwise I'm in pretty damn good health. My cholesterol is not high, both good and bad are in the good range. Blood sugar levels are good. I do have what is called "white coat hypertension", which basically is high blood pressure brought on by seeing a doctor. Hard to believe that getting a call "Got your MRI results, we need to see you immediately and set up a consult with a neurosurgeon" would get ones blood pressure up. Given my level of health and diet for the first 30 years of my live that's pretty good.

But the enzymes. These can be caused by any number of issues, including liver damage. Now, I've been known to have a drink or two more than I should on rare occasions. So, when I was ordered to get an ultrasound to determine my liver health I was a little worried. The results however came back that I have a healthy, unscarred, unfatty liver. I do however have a gallstone. For the moment, it's not affecting or blocking anything. So, we'll deal with that later. Still no reason for the high enzymes... except I was on pain killers and muscle relaxers for the 4 days before the blood test.

I don't use pain meds often. It's gotta be pretty rough or distracting to get me to take an Advil. And one of them usually take so much of the edge of I'm good for the day. Part of the upbringing was that pain doesn't hurt, it just feels different. Well, that's just stupid and I kind of want to punch the person that told me that. Pain is a defense mechanism, it tells you something is wrong and you should probably check it out. Sometimes it can wait, sometimes it's good pain (sore after a workout or when you're handcuffed to the bed and the hot candlewax... never mind). But my youthful "don't think about the pain" mantra probably isn't gonna work much longer.

Anyways, so I'm hopped up on painlkillers over the weekend. Probably cause of the high enzymes. Waiting to hear back from a second blood test. But since it was due back this past week and no "I need to see you immediately" calls came in, I think I'll live. In a side note, a discussion with a coworker revealed that he had also in the past couple weeks had the same enzyme issue and went through the same sonogram procedure. Nothing found. We've concluded that it was the diseases spread in the workplace (probably by a particular person who seems to developed a particularly flattering cough that's reminiscent of a cross between the bubonic plague and pneumonia).

So, that's where I stand medically. It's a waiting game now. I really hope my health return to it's nominal level in short time. I have big plans coming this way. I've already had to shelve some things for this month. Not to mention I'm starting to feel restless and this need to get out of town.. well country.

That's the latest update. Thanx for all the support through these trying times. :ater!

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Hey, Hey! What's going on!

It's been a while since I've put words down on the pixels of the screen. I'll try to catch up on what's going on in my world. And a few comments on recent events.

First. This whole Weiner thing. I have two things to say. In his defense on not resigning, if we demanded every congressman who lied or misled the American public resign... We would be out of congressmen. Not entirely a bad idea. Ok, that's all the defense I can must for the guy. He's an idiot! Everyone under 35 knows anything you put out there in digital form will be found. It's never truly deleted from the servers. That's the both the beauty and the danger in the online world. It ensures that our important digital keepsakes and messages make it through multiple catastrophic server failures, but it also ensures that we can be tracked by our digital footprint. And if the Representative from NY thinks he San send dick pics around and not get busted... He's an moron. That sort of hubris has no place in public service. Unfortunately, he's not the only one that is affected by that particular disease.

Budget battles... Apparently the US is about to hit it's debt ceiling. And the republicans are blocking a raise of said limit. I find this a bit hypocritical, since it was raised 5 or 6 years under the last administration. But hey, now we need to reign in spending. Or just spending on things we don't want to send money on. In all fairness, the dems aren't really going gangbusters on cutting meaningfully on the budget. I really hope this gets fixed, but im less than optimistic. Here's a simple plan. Quit spending money on stupid things ( studying migration patterns of rodents) and make people pay their taxes. Dn't raise them per se, but close the loopholes that allow a highly profitable company pay $0 in corporate taxes. I think that's fair. Hell I'm willing to kick in a $1000 more a year if it means the fire station a block away stays well trained and equipped and the bridges I cross on the way to work won't fall down.

Alright, enough of that. More about me. A few weeks ago I was able to have some much needed Grace face time. I spent the weekend in ATL (which incidentally had been rated the Best Man City in America by Maxim magazine) and was able to see some friends and do the general hanging out I enjoy so much. Other than the gathering at the Pollard Palace, there was lunch with Ginger upstairs and to the left, some quality with Jersey over beers and baseball, a nice quiet evening with Maggie with takeout and deep conversations, cheap Braves baseball with free Ludacris to follow, and a family visit for my nieces 11th birthday.

All good times. I'm still really pondering the condo in the city, but for now I'm on hold due to potential of an unscheduled financial outlay that may be in my future... more on that later.

This past week I've been looking back over my shoulder a bit, thinking about some of the good ole days. As Billy Joel said "the good ole days weren't always good," but it sure seems that way. I think there's a few triggers that got me thinking about this. I watched a special on SNL from the 90's, a few of the musical selections really brought back memories. I've always been a fairly musically inclined person, and tend to associate events and places with what was playing on my radio/portable cassette/portable cd player. Remember those? The seem so archaic now.

Anyway, listening to the skits I remember laughing about with friends in school on Monday, or a particular song that brought a flashback of that never ending bus ride from nowhere USA to the next nowhere USA. Also thoughts of old friends, some who I don't talk to enough now, or who aren't here to talk to. The days of living at home and making too much money for any mid 20something should while having fun at work. Sundays at Fellinis or Friday's at Bar in Buckhead. Saturdays at the Chamber.

Another catalyst for this nostalgia comes from a book I'm reading. It's about Dave Matthews Band (go figure). And with the walkl back through their history I find myself thinking back to when I first heard a particular song and how I related it to the high and low points of my life. Apparently, I'm not the only one that does that since the book has tons of testimonials from similar people. Of course the memories of 28 concerts jumble together. The first one way back in 1998, the most recent one last year, my last "date" with my ex-fake girlfriend Grace.

So, for the last 13 years that has been a staple of my summers... A random date and a DMB concert. This year, I have no plan to see them, since they aren't really touring. I'm a little put of about that. Those concerts were always little breaks from real world, and no matter how bad a mood I was in before the shows, I always came away feeling a lot better about life. There was a time when I could escape the real world for months.... Ah Drum Corps tours. No real responsibilities... My day scheduled down to the minute, meals provided, no concern about getting from point a to point b. Surrounded with friends (almost too surrounded at times) and only having to focus on the shows. It was nice. Days before cell phones and the interweb.

This morning, as I was streaming Dave FM from ATL through my stereo via my Apple TV (recent purchase, I blame Jersey for hooking me on this). I decided I was over seeing the generic screensaver and created my own. It involved using my Flickr account (which I didn't know I had, but comes with my Yahoo! account) and a few of my fave pictures from the past decade +). Its like a walk down memory lane. If you're interested in seeing whats made the cut, look up swmellodees on There's only one album.

Oh well, time to look forward. Now seems to be one of those trying times. In the last week I've spent more time in doctors offices than I have in the last decade. Seems I'm not invincible, and maybe I shouldn't have been loading airplanes by myself all those years ago. Or at least I shouldn't have been on a treadmill 3 weeks ago. That's the start.

If you read this far you're obviously either bored or really interested in my life. So I'll share:

After a jog/walk on a tread mill for a couple miles, I immediately felt sore and hurty. And not the normal hurt, worse than usual. So. I took a week off, got to feeling better and went back for some elliptical action, which treats my knees better. Apparently the muscles weren't as healed up as I hope and I was again hobbling about. Then, while brushing my teeth 2 Thursday's back, I straightened up after a spit in the since and felt a pop in my back... Immediately I grabbed the sink and waited for pain to start shooting from somewhere. It never came, and off to work I went.

Through the night I started feeling a little numbness in my posterior, and though maybe I'm sitting to long. Standing and walking didn't help. So when I got home I called my doc and made an appointment, the next available one was Tuesday. Ok. Off to sleep I went. I woke up that afternoon feeling worse. Still numb and no my lower back was screaming at me whenever I moved a certain direction. By certain I mean any. So I thought a trip to doc in a box (urgent care) was warranted, he diagnosed me with muscle strain, issued some muscle relaxers and pain meds. Neither of which I could really use immediately. So it was Advil and off to work I went. Luckily since I never take pain meds, one advil usually knocks out anything I feel. I've been told I'm an idiot for not using pain meds more liberally, but I prefer to just endure it.. After all pain doesn't hurt, it just feels different. Right?

I had plans to visit Atlanta that weekend, but when I woke up Saturday I could barely walk and numbness had spread... now on my right thigh and right foot. I reluctantly canceled the much anticipated weekend, too the drugs and spent the next 20 hours pretty much laid up on the couch or bed sleeping.

Tuesday rolls around and while the muscle pain seemed to mostly be waning, the tingling and numbness still persevered. After relaying to my doc the symptoms, he ordered a blood test and an lower back MRI, arranged for Friday. After work I headed to the hospital to Ne body scanned. I kept wonder why everyone asked if I was clausterphobic, now I know why. Turns out I'm not. The tech told me to expect the results to be at the docs in 2 business days. On my way home I called my doc an made another appointment for this coming Tuesday. Then off to sleep I went. 2 hours later, my doctors office is calling me. I wake up and answer to be told my MRI results are back and doc wants to see me as soon as possible.

This can't be good. So I roust up and head over in a near state of panic expecting to be told I need a new spine immediately. When I got to the office I had to wait about 45 minutes to be seen, which actually helped calm me down a little ( though my blood pressure readings seem to contradict that) thinking if it was bad they'd be waiting with an ambulance.

Finally the news, a couple of discs in my lower spine were bulging a little, but a third one had actually broke off a chunk that had pressed on several nerves and I had a sever spinal stenosis. I'm not really sure what all this meant, but severe sounds bad. He also said he wanted me to see a neurosurgeon that afternoon. Yeah, can't be good. Oh by the way your blood work shows you have abnormally high liver enzyme rate... but that can wait till next week. In other news my cholesterol is good, my blood pressure is normally good ( that day it was reading a little high but we'll not worry about it).

So he called the neurosurgeon, of the two one is on a mission trip and the other was in emergency surgery all afternoon. So he got me in to see a PA, and off I went to doc office number 3 for the day. There were more questions and history and finally the PA came in and did an exam which involved a lot of poking, prodding, and pushing me. Then she explained what the MRI results were in more specific terms.

Three of my discs are dehydrated, one had a chunk break off and that's floating in the spinal cavity and causing the stenosis (which means narrowing, and I had thought they were two separate issues from the previous conversation with my doctor... Not his fault, he's not a neurosurgeon). There had been some situational improvement from the fisprst visit, which was good. And I seem not to have any issues with my motor skills, also good. So it seems some sensory nerves were being impacted. I also learned that your spinal cord stops a lot higher in your spine than I though... again good news.

Then came the "here's what we can do" conversation. The Physician Assistant had talked to the actual surgeon (who also had seen my MRI) they had agreed that right now, I was not in an emergent situation. So we'd start with some medications to see if we can get some improvement. Or, if I wanted to, we could schedule a spine surgery. I went with the medication. However, if I start having issues with motor skills, like moving my leg, or bladder control issues, I should immediately get to an ER. So home I went, and a quick nap (try sleeping after that... It takes a high level of exhaustion... Luckily I had achieved that level) before work.

So all night at work, I'm moving and walking, just to check if I still can normally. Bathroom visits were hyper analyzed to try and remember if this was how I normally peed (have you ever noticed your urinary habits before? Me neither. So knowing it's normal or not wasn't the easiest thing to determine).

I started the meds the neuros issued that might, and by the time I got home I was feeling a little better. A lot of the pain in the areas has gone. Still some numbness. And I'm told to not do anything physically exerting or any lifting. So I have been ordered by my doctor to be lazy. I can do that!

So after near panic attacks Friday, I'm feeling better and hopefully on the way to a non surgical recovery. Just incase, I have a down payment sitting in saving account for either a condo or a new lower back. I prefer the condo.

So, there you have it. That's what's happening. I'm not looking for sympathy, just an update as to why I may be a bit scarce over for a little while. I do however appreciate the good thoughts many have sent my way. I'll gladly accept them :-). The hardest parts have been A) not assuming the worst based on WebMD results (stroke and paralysis) B) having to cancel plans for things I've really really been looking forward to and C) being open and admitting that things aren't right to the doctors who ask more and more personal questions. I'm now over C and stopped checking on A. B is a work in progress.

Life is currently in progress, I'll make updates as it happens. Thanx for reading!