I had my post-hospital follow-up with Dr. O'Brien today. Just walking to my appointment, I could feel my anxiety levels rising. This was going to be one of those appointments where I'd have to ask the hard questions and be ready for the even-harder answers. For most of my injury I've been trying to stay in the moment, and not get too ahead of myself, but when I was incapacitated by pain at the bottom of my shower, I could only think (1) how the fuck am I going to get out of here and (2) is this what I have to look forward to the rest of my life?
"How are you feeling? Any better?" I'm moving pretty well as compared to how I was a few Sundays ago but still not great. But there's what my body feels, and then there's what's going on in my head and heart.
I thanked him for intervening at the ER. He understood why I was upset over how I was treated (by a know-it-all ER doc that wanted to shove pain killers at me). That alone made me feel so much better -- that I wasn't being irrational for wanting the orthopedist resident on call to consult.
Then he asked "So what's been going on?" That's when I was just overcome by the emotions of chronic injury and the tears started their slow drip. I told him that I was trying to do well by avoiding the big ticket things (like giving up softball, and being cautiously fearful re boxing) but that what felled me was my everyday life...bathing myself. This is not the life that I want to be living -- where I'm immobilized by fear as well as the actual pain.
We looked at the MRIs that they took at the hospital as well as the x-ray they took today. And well I have another few medical terms that I need to look up (for some background, read here: "A Mile In Her Shoes"):
2. Cyan arrow: known issue of annular tears, but annular tear at L4-5 showed changes from prior MRIs.
3. Yellow arrow: new issue. "modic change" (a pathological change in the vertebral body (see here and here for medical jargon)).
4. Also yellow arrow: retrolisthesis per the radiology report ("a posterior displacement of one vertebral body with respect to the adjacent vertebrae to a degree less than a luxation (dislocation)").
Dr. O'Brien is sending me to a colleague to get a discogram to determine which disc is causing pain/numbness. It sounds like a super amount of fun where they inject a contrast dye into each disc and see what happens. Thankfully this can be done while sedated -- cause I'm not the best with needles.
I'm a bit overwhelmed by all of this because the path forward isn't clear. I'm really stressed by all that's going on in my life and just wish my body would get with the program. That being said, I'm confident that Dr. O'Brien has my back. We're going to take this one step at a time and come up with a plan.
In the meantime, I just want to thank everyone that has messaged me with words of support, or that send me things to lift my spirits. Chronic pain and depression are common bedfellows because often people can't ever imagine a day when they're not in pain. Imagine living that life. Imagine the cloud that hangs over any hopes for your future. Yah. This is why I watch the Monterrey Bay Aquarium's OtterCam -- they make me forget for a few seconds.