So somewhere along the way in this life, I managed to do something to my neck… Or possibly my shoulder. Or my back. Not sure which, because they all hurt.
I’ve had neck issues before – even saw a doctor and a chiropractor for them. No one could/would fix anything. It’s a simple matter to say, “Here are some muscle relaxants” or “Sit under this ice pack for half an hour” and call it a done deal. I know there are more pressing cases out there that they have to deal with, and believe it or not I hold no blame or malice toward any practitioner that worked on me. They all helped.
Anyway, this time is different than before. I’m experiencing a pain greater than I can ever remember before, and it seems content to not go away any time soon. At various times it has felt like an icepick being pushed into the muscle, a scraping tool worked along bone, or a pinch/press effect on the bone that felt like an angry bouncer trying to pull my collarbone out of my neck for crossing the velvet ropes. I’ve had sharp, stabbing, burning, throbbing, dull, shooting, radiating, and pressing. Kind of an equal opportunity pain, I guess. I’ve felt it from about the middle of the right bicep up through the shoulder joint, into the neck and all the way to the base of the skull. Currently, as I type, I have a sharpness inside the upper right pectoral angling upward and inward to where the neck joins the shoulder.
I have to keep reminding myself to rate it as well. The hospitals and docs are using a 1-10 range thing where 1 is normal and 10 is the worst you can imagine pain being. I can imagine things worse than this so the 10 is out. I mean I could have what’s going on and be slowly being devoured by rabid weasels at the same time, right? That would be worse, and I can imagine it. As a consequence, I adjusted my personal understanding of Pain Level 10 to be “Unspeakable pain. Possible delirium. Unable to interact with the outside world.”
I have not reached that point yet, and I’m hopeful that I never will.
I have registered it as an 8 though. At that point I was unable to focus on anything except the pain. I could barely make sentences, and they were frequently interrupted with me gasping for air or muttering curses (okay, so I was saying them out loud more than muttering, but the point is made). Some of what I said, I am sure, made little sense. I wound up with tears running from my eyes as I tried to maintain a simple erect posture. I was cradling the right arm in my left hand, looking like I was guarding it as one would a broken bone. In truth, I was desperately trying to keep it from hanging on its own weight, in hopes that somehow the pressure being lessened would lead to less pain on my part.
I wound up in an Emergency Room at about 0100 on Saturday. On the plus side, there were very few people there at that hour. We spent some time there getting poked and prodded and answering questions. Left with an ass shot full of steroids and anti-inflammatories, a couple prescriptions for more of them, and a referral to a pain management doctor.
Sleep became an elusive thing. Often, as I would begin to drift off, the pain would erupt into white-hot shards in the shoulder and leave me wide awake. At other times, it would just slowly grow in intensity until I could not stay asleep.
Pain management doc listened to my statements and did some poking/prodding of his own. He ordered an MRI to determine where the issues truly were, and set up an epidural injection. Administered trigger point injections of steroid. Gave me some pills that allowed me to function again as well as sleep. Kicked the pain down a couple notches. Now I run a constant 4 instead of 5 as a base. Still get spikes up to 6 or even the occasional 7, but with the meds onboard it is manageable. I’m kinda drowsy all the time now, and sometimes look and feel like a zombie, but that’s preferable to the sheets of sweat and grinding teeth that was the norm before the medications.
Still waiting on the MRI he ordered. The insurance company likes to fight and delay things, at least until after the new year begins, when they can hit me up for the full amount of my deductible again. Oops. That was my cynical voice. Sorry!
I have an interesting trick, though. I can’t lift my right arm up past about parallel to the floor. I don’t really know how to explain it. It’s not that it hurts to do it, it’s just that when it gets there, it stops. Like it had reached the extent of its range of motion, but it hasn’t. I can reach over with my left hand and easily lift it into a different position, but if I let go, it falls right back to that parallel point, as if it had never gone past it. I’m learning to move my entire body to compensate. I look like Joe Cocker on a bad day, flailing around like a deranged Muppet.
Back to the epidural. I went to the Spine Center and thought I knew what was coming. My bad. Apologies to the staff – If I had known I would have to take off my pants I would have worn underwear for you. I just figured, “cervical spine injection. Eh, so I gotta take off my shirt,” and planned accordingly. Next time I will know better.
And there will be a next time. Sometime in the first couple weeks of 2017, I would imagine. The crew is already working on setting it up. I can have three of them, with a minimum two weeks between them.
In the meantime, between the steroid shots and pills from the ER, and the ones from the pain doc, I had more ‘roids in me than a bad pro wrestler. I was constantly jamming food in my mouth and my body had muscle tremors that made me look like I was trying to vibrate my way into another dimension. My hands still shake a lot. It’s weird.
My urge to create has come back a bit, so that’s good, right? Except that it hasn’t given me the ability to concentrate long enough to write anything that requires a lot of thought. I’m just kind of winging it with this, in fact. It’s semi stream of consciousness, or possibly just stream of semi-consciousness? Not sure which. I’m doing things that I can walk away from instead, like new base characters for stories (the cardboard box that will one day hold the tasty character bits inside) and map squiggles (which is where I draw random continents and so forth in preparation for the creation of decent fictional worlds one day). I have a notebook with messy handwriting in it where I jot down ideas and random thoughts that might be able to be acted on when I’m “sober” again.
Meanwhile I sit and type, with a sharp ache in my neck/shoulder/back that is about as welcome as one would imagine it to be.
So there you have it. A snapshot of my life at the moment. It had been ages since I dropped anything new on the page, and out of the blue you get this. I know it’s not stories or anything fun, but at least I put something new up here. I have been remiss, and hopefully I will change that.
Welcome to 2017, folks.