TIME IN ‘THE TUBE’: Upright At Last!


Greenville, TX

On October 1, 2018, I underwent an MRI at Chatuge Regional Hospital in Hiawassee, Georgia. One week later, I received the results from my doctor. The MRI showed three compression fractures in the lumbar area of my back. The diagnosis was not surprising. In fact, it validated the mounting pain I had started feeling.  The one measly time I had not had myself checked out at Care Now was the one time I tripped sideways over the handle of a “killer” rolling duffel bag and landed on my lower back. At the time it happened, Jeff and I were too busy moving out of our house and into a totally new lifestyle: full-time RV living. After he helped me up, I thanked God for the carpeting on our bedroom floor.

Since May 2018, soon after we moved to Georgia, my pain increased. Still, we continued to take in trade shows, arts festivals, and other activities that involved strolling along on uneven ground or concrete surfaces and standing around and talking to people. Surprisingly enough, walking at a clip was far easier for me than slogging along like a snail on gravel. Finally, I got fed up with hurting and arranged for an MRI.

Although I was relieved to find out that the pain I was feeling wasn’t only my imagination, I hurt even worse and parked my injured carcass on the nearest bench or chair every time we ventured out. The doctor in Georgia recommended a “kyphoplasty”, a procedure in which the surgeon inserts a balloon into the fractured part of the spine. When we checked with our health insurance, we decided that it would be cheaper to do it in Texas, once the campground where we worked closed for the winter. While the procedure was a minimally-invasive one, it would require day surgery or, at the worst, an overnight stay in the hospital.

In January, two months after we arrived in Greenville to oversee a horse-boarding ranch-in-the-making, we visited Hunt Regional Hospital where I got hooked up with a neurosurgeon who sent for the MRI done in Georgia. After studying it, he arranged for his office to schedule an epidural steroid injection in my lumbar spine.

On February 5,  four days ago, I underwent the procedure.  After one nurse inserted an IV,  the doctor bustled in and drew a circle where he would inject the steroid. Before long, the OR nurse met me in the hall as I was emerging from one last trip to the bathroom. I hopped on and away we went to the OR.  My last pre-op memory was of that  nurse inserting a cannula into my nostrils.

Those must have been some heavy-duty  ‘I don’t care’-drops, as the next minute, it seemed, I woke up in another room where Jeff  awaited my return.

The whole procedure must have taken only about fifteen to twenty minutes.  Thanks to the anesthesia, I slept through the whole process. When I awoke, another nurse brought me two containers of apple juice.

“Ready to go home?” she asked.

“Well, yeah,” I slurred, “as soon as I get out of there.”

She and my husband exchanged winks.

“It’s over, girl,” she said. “You’re good to go!”

Clutching my discharge instructions and taking to heart her advice to be “a little lazy” for a couple of days, I left the hospital with Jeff where he dashed into Wal-Mart for a few items before we stopped at CB’s Sandwich Shop for a couple of juicy, home-style cheeseburgers before heading home. As another friend said I would do,  I went “tim-berrrrrr!” onto the bed and enjoyed a heavenly nap until I woke up at supper time.

Later, that day, I braced for post-op pain of some kind. After all, hadn’t the doctor prescribed a high-octane muscle relaxant? I was pleasantly surprised that I had no pain — none whatsoever — on that day or on the days that followed. The only effect of the procedure was the best one I could have asked for:  the ability to walk  upright and pain-free, again.

This afternoon, when Jeff suggested a trip to Wal-Mart just to get out for a while, I jumped at the chance. After all, I have a brand-new back. The best place to remove the “shrink wrap” and give ‘er a spin was Wal-Mart, a place that always made me ache by the time I returned to the car. The only times I felt pain had nothing at all to do with my back and everything to do with aisles congested with confused people and rowdy children and slow-moving checkout lanes on a rainy Saturday.

Anyone who has spent any time on Facebook knows that it is full of ‘lore’. Everyone has an opinion. And everyone who has been through the same procedures is eager to share his or her own experience. Some have had to have three or more injections.

“You may need another one in six months,”  said a friend, “or one shot might get it the first time.”

I believe I’m one of the blessed. Now if only I can steer clear of those dastardly duffels!