Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Does this mean I'm OLD??!

I wasn't going to do this. I. Was. Not. Going. To. Do. This. Period. I just wasn't. Not ever. Oh, c'mon, you know what I'm talking about: discussing my aches and pains. It's just too darned old-personey. But since I know you're wondering where I've been, I guess I'll just have to give in and tell you.

The day after I returned from a weekend with my sister, I started having pain in my left leg. First of all, you should probably know that, in our family, the left leg is always referred to as "the polio leg." A legacy from my mother's bout with polio in 1950. Her left leg bore the brunt of the disease and the ongoing affliction. So my mom had a "good" leg and a polio leg. After many years of hearing it referred to that way, it just sort of rubbed off. Yes, you're right: we are odd.

Anyway, this pain in my polio leg was harshly reminiscent of the sciatica that I had suffered in my right leg (also know as my "good leg") until I had back surgery in 1998. The main difference this time was that the sciatica wasn't accompanied by back pain, and - after 24 hours of nonstop pain - I was starting to consider amputation as a viable treatment. See, the pain of sciatica is similar to what it feels like when you hit your funny bone; you know there's nothing funny about it. It's kind of electric and painful, all at once. But the sciatic pain doesn't stop - or at least not long enough to notice. And this time - another difference - the pain was starting mid-hip, radiating all the way down my leg, and going out - I'm not making this up - at my ankle. It really, truly, felt as if I could still feel it about three inches into the air around my ankle.

It hurt. A lot.

So, being quite adept at self-diagnosis and self-medicating, I decided that it was probably inflamed and I needed an anti-inflammatory. The best (non-prescription) anti-inflammatory I could come up with was aspirin. To my generation, aspirin still qualifies as a miracle drug. This, despite the bad rep it's acquired over the years. Those childhood lessons die hard! Yes, I know the dangers of giving it to children, and I am militant about that. But I personally have never had a bad experience with aspirin.

Since I fill the role of Granny Nanny to my 7 month old granddaughter three days each week, and add her 4 year old brother to the mix on Thursdays, I knew I needed to be able to function. I also knew I probably ought to go to the doctor, but could probably put that off till Friday. By Wednesday, the only way to keep the pain abated was with three (yes, you read that correctly) aspirin, every three (that, too) hours. Around the clock. I know it was around the clock, because when it wore off at night, the pain woke me up. So I just took three before I went to sleep, put three more on my nightstand for when I woke in the night, and then took three more upon awakening. Around the clock, like I said. Wednesday and Thursday. It was the only way I could keep from crying with pain.

Thursday I noticed that I wasn't hearing very well. When people spoke, the letter "s" didn't sound sibilant; it was as if it was being swallowed. And the blinker signals in my car were muted. But Jim had a cold that had gone into his ears, so I thought maybe I was catching it, too. All I really cared about was the pain, and I continued treating it.

Friday morning, I called my doctor's office. I must have sounded pretty bad, because they got me in right away. Normally it takes a day or two, but the scheduling nurse sounded really sympathetic. When I arrived, the nurse practitioner (superior to a doctor in many ways, in my estimation!) listened to my tale of woe and pain, asked all the pertinent questions, and began to prescribe. She asked me what I'd been taking, and I told her. I learned a long time ago not to lie to my medical professionals! Almost offhandedly, I asked her to please check my ears, since my hearing wasn't so good. She looked at me and said, "NO MORE ASPIRIN!" My ears were clear, but my hearing was shot. There really are warning signs on the aspirin bottle about that. But I'd ignored them.

So she fixed me up with Flexeril, Vicodin, and prescription-strength Aleve, told me to go home, take the drugs, and go to bed. And she handed me a sheet of exercises to help with the sciatica. I spent the next four days in a drug-induced stupor, mostly in bed, waking only long enough for bathroom, food, more drugs, and back up the stairs to bed. By late Sunday, my hearing was almost normal and the pain was mostly gone.

I stayed on a modified regimen of the drugs all of last week - taking only enough to take the edge off so I could take care of the grandkids - and did my exercises. Over this past weekend, the pain was relieved enough that I was able to prune my roses and even do a little shopping. Today I feel great!

I'm still taking the Aleve, since it's only twice a day and I have to take it with meals. I think today will be my last day with it, though. Oh, and I got rid of all the aspirin.

There, I've done it. I've gone public with old-age behavior. I hope you still respect me.

1 comment:

  1. In my experience as a physical therapist, most sciatica is caused by a rotated pelvis. One side of the pelvis is being pulled forward more than the other side by tight muscles in the front of the hips. This is covered in my book, Fixing You: Back Pain if you're interested.
    Good luck!
    Rick Olderman